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left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing, the

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The actions are uncoordinated, especially when they are contrary, as in Purchasing has placed the order and accounting says we can't pay for more supplies this month; the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. Today this expression is nearly always used as a criticism. But, it first appeared in the New Testament (Matthew 6:3) in an approving sense, when Jesus recommended not publicizing one's good deeds—not letting the left hand know what the right hand does. [Early 1600s]

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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

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