Meaning of "doesn't even begin to cover it"

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I saw the movie Ice Age 4, in which there was the quote "Okay doesn't even begin to cover it". After searching on the internet, I couldn't find the meaning of the sentence at all. Is that "Begin to cover" an idiom? What's the meaning of the sentence?

santanu bera

Posted 2014-09-11T18:48:30.127

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Answers

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Here, "Okay doesn't even begin to cover it" means "The word okay is so inadequate that it does not even have the slightest chance of describing [topic]."

From Oxford Dictionaries Online:

begin

  1. [no object with negative] informal Not have any chance or likelihood of doing a specified thing

cover

  1. Deal with (a subject) by describing or analyzing its most important aspects or events

More generally, "doesn't even begin to..." is used when you want say that something is extremely lacking; that it does not have any chance of accomplishing the goal that it intends to. Some examples of proper ways to use "doesn't even begin to...", from the above source:

Indeed, even today, one cannot begin to comprehend the appalling fate suffered by these two young girls.

He concluded by saying that we couldn't even begin to comprehend what one day in his shoes would be like.

Clearly this too is an honour that most of you have little chance of even beginning to aspire to.

Egghead99

Posted 2014-09-11T18:48:30.127

Reputation: 1 144

1Yes, but I think your final example is a bit extreme. I imagine the only context in which such words might be uttered would be in an address to "raw recruits/hopeful candidates" (who in practice are probably already aspiring to merit the relevant honour). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2014-09-11T23:05:16.660

1@FumbleFingers Yes, I agree that the words are a bit harsh. But those are the examples listed under ODO's entry for the word begin, copied verbatim. Maybe someone at Oxford University Press was having a bad day. – Egghead99 – 2014-09-12T03:01:27.043

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Look at this definition of begin from TheFreeDictionary.com:

  1. To do or accomplish in the least degree

Those measures do not even begin to address the problem.

It talks about an action/thing being so hugely dramatic that something else said or done in return almost pales in comparison to it, so it doesn't even begin to solve the problem.

For instance, if you have done a grave mistake, or a terrible sin, and upon realizing your mistake, you say "I'm sorry", you might get a reply:

Sorry doesn't even begin to cover it

or

Sorry doesn't cut it

I cannot give you an exact answer on your quote without the context, but "Okay doesn't even begin to cover it" is also used in a similar sense here. The key point to focus on is "doesn't even begin".

Manish Giri

Posted 2014-09-11T18:48:30.127

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I haven't seen the cartoon but I got the following from the script:

Peaches: "Do I look okay? Louis?

Louis: Okay doesn't even begin to cover it."

So Louis is having fun with her by saying that Peaches looks fantastic and beautiful. ('begin to cut' from freedictionary.com)

user6200

Posted 2014-09-11T18:48:30.127

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Context does help immensely in this case. So the real meaning of "doesn't begin to cover" is "insufficiently (positive) description". – DWin – 2014-09-11T23:18:47.473

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To cover something in this sense is to describe it in an adequate amount of detail: for example, "The professor covered Shakespeare's sonnets in his lecture." So, to not even begin to cover something means to not even come close to describing it adequately.

David Richerby

Posted 2014-09-11T18:48:30.127

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