A task that’s easy to accomplish; something that lacks complexity and is thus simple to understand and/or do.
Example: Let me show you how to make a delicious homemade club sandwich, and don’t worry, it’s not brain surgery. (In other words, making the sandwich is not difficult, it’s easy.)
Origin Of “It’s Not Brain Surgery”
Imagine this scene. A man named Will is assembling a chair that he bought from the store. He’s having a hard time putting it together. His friend comes over and tells him that what he’s doing “is not brain surgery.” Alternatively, he could say “it’s not rocket science.” So… why do people say things like this when they think something is easy to do?
Because there are certain professions that are considered very hard to do, like brain surgeons or, uh, rocket scientists (is this even a thing?). These jobs, among other occupations, are thought of as being very complicated. Hence, someone who uses these phrases is implying that what you’re doing, in this case what Bill is doing—building a chair—it’s relatively simple in comparison to what’s done in these other, more complex professions.
Anyways, when did this saying originate? It doesn’t look to be that old, because the earliest I could find it in writing is from the early 1970s. This suggests that it may have originated sometime during 20th century. An example of it being used during this decade 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.'”
This is how you use the saying in a sentence:
- My wife wanted to learn how to change the tires on our car. She had never done it before so she asked me to teach her. “Don’t worry, it’s not brain surgery,” I told her. However, since it was her first time changing a tire, there might be some challenge involved.
Note: This website has the meanings for idioms and phrases, a large list of them! Are you aware, however, that the origins for many expressions cannot be said with a certainty? In cases like that, what’s provided are explanations that may be plausible to how a phrase originated.
In addition, quotes that contain a particular phrase may be taken from old newspapers, poems, or books that were written centuries ago. This by no means confirms that the phrase originated these sources. In all likelihood, if an expression is being used in a newspaper, it’s probably already a well known saying and is from an older time.