It’s Not Brain Surgery


A task that’s easy to accomplish; something that lacks complexity and is thus simple to understand and/or do.

Example: Today, I’ll show you how to make a delicious homemade club sandwich. Don’t worry, it’s not brain surgery. (In other words, making the sandwich will be easy.)

1. A piece of cake
2. A walk in the park
3. As easy as pie
4. It’s not rocket science

The side view of a human brain.
Artwork of the human brain.

The Origin of “It’s Not Brain Surgery”

For a moment, imagine you are assembling a new office chair. You’re having some trouble putting it together, so someone comes over and says: “Having trouble? It’s not brain surgery.” Or alternatively, “It’s not rocket science.” Why do people use these phrases to mean that something is easy to do?

Well, it probably has to do with how certain occupations are thought of as being very difficult to do. For example, many would consider a brain surgeon to be really hard work. Hence, someone who uses this phrase is implying that what you’re currently doing—in this case, building an office chair— is relatively simple in comparison to what’s done in these other, more complex professions.

Now, when did the saying “it’s not exactly brain surgery” originate? The earliest I could find it in print is from the 1970s, so it doesn’t look to be that old. The following example comes from the Ames Daily Tribune newspaper, 1971:

“He determined that his book, which is as yet untitled and will be published by Prentice-Hall late next year, would dispel the mystery and get women over the ‘original hurdle–the psycological block.’ ‘After all,’ he added, ‘it’s not like brain surgery.'”

Example Sentences

Here is an example of this expression in a sentence:

  • My friend was worried about changing the oil in his car, but it’s a cinch, so I said to him: “It’s not brain surgery, you’ll learn quickly.”

Synonym Examples:

  • Fixing the TV in our living room was a piece of cake.
  • If you don’t know how to clean out the air filters, it’s not rocket science. Let me show you.

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