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разбираться в чем-то из рук вон плохо

This entire phrase is a hyperbolic expression used to emphasise the idea of "how badly someone does something", correct?

Its grammatical construction eludes me, though; I'm not sure how to parse the phrase -- how these separate words get to have the figurative meaning as a whole.

из рук = (getting) out of hand?

вон = out there?

плохо = badly

Also: What other verbs than "разбираться" are commonly coupled with this expression?

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    Я бы не разделял 1-е и 2-е, это одна часть на мой взгляд: "из рук вон" - out of hand. Otherwise it could be like "кормить из/с руки" or "выпустить из рук" (например, когда другой человек тянет на себя, отдать ему, чтобы не разорвать предмет конфликта). "Вон" в данном случае подчёркивает неуправляемость и... яростность, что ли, действия. Что оно в каком-то смысле взрывное, разрушающее, незапланированнео и нерассудочное. – Arioch Jun 22 '18 at 10:13
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    Initially I believe the phrase to be about "дела пошли/обернулись из рук вон плохо" - the affairs went out of hand, turned a trainwreck. So the affairs are as "trainwrecked" as some dinner could turn into a mess, when хозяйка дома would be bringing a kitchenware full with some meal and then stumble and drop it in the clean dining room before bringing to the table, with both the kitchenware damaged and the floor dented and the meal flying all around. Not just something went moderately wrong - but a "FUBAR" mess. – Arioch Jun 22 '18 at 10:18
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    Then this phrase became more and more stretched, relaxed, vague. To the point of your example, where it is applied to the idea of merely grokking (or not) some concept, or having (or not) some practical experience. And because of that I suppose there can be but any activity that today can - even if somewhat stretched - be coupled with this idiom. – Arioch Jun 22 '18 at 10:20
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To me it breaks down like this: плохо as if everything falls из рук вон.

You may imagine an unprofessional or tired person, who can't hold his tools tightly and they keep falling out of his hands. So he effectively can't do his job.

Из рук вон means just out of hands. Вон is an old fashioned word and used to indicate direction "from here/inside to the outside".

This expression may be coupled with the name of virtually any activity

Он водит/шьет/работает из рук вон плохо

and also in the phrase like

Дела идут из рук вон плохо - The things are very bad.

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  • Hi. So is the expression more like "из рук вон / плохо"? If so, can you use any other adverb with "из рук вон / adverb"? – Con-gras-tue-les-chiens Jun 22 '18 at 13:27
  • @Alone-zee No, not normally. It became a set phrase. It sometimes even contracts to just "из рук вон" (плохо is implied). As a side note, there is another expression "всё из рук валится" which means "to fail to do anything the right way". E.g. "У меня сегодня всё из рук валится" - "I can't do anything properly today". – AlexVB Jun 22 '18 at 17:32
  • I'd say "из рук вон" without the adverb more conveys some development is out of control. No more manageable. Yes, it is bad, too. But the primary sense is loss of control. When without an adverb. – Arioch Jun 22 '18 at 23:24
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Плохо is an adverb badly and «из рук вон» is an idiom meaning very It can be used with different verbs but only with this adverb.

Он учится из рук вон плохо. Дела идут из рук вон плохо. И готовит она из рук вон плохо.=совсем плохо, очень плохо.

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    ...or without adverbs at all :D – Arioch Jun 22 '18 at 23:21
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Let's try it this way:

First, just like the other guys said: in the expression itself the adverb is "плохо" ("badly"), and the "из рук вон" is the amplifier. Another adverb used here is "слабо" ("weakly", in the sense of quality).

Also the expression might be used in the reduced form: "из рук вон", implying the mentioned adverbs.

Altogether the expression conveys the sense of deepest disapproval or lowest quality and is used with verbs denoting state, action, activity.

How the expression came to be? Without digging in the books and seeing as it uses the hand metaphor, it's very likely, just like @AlexVB suggested, that originally it meant the quality of something made by person who "can't hit a nail straight or keep a tool in a hand".

Compare "все из рук валится" -- literally "everything falling out of one's hands", "can't do anything right/can't make busy with anything, because of feeling very bad or low", and rude "(чьи-то) руки (растут) из ж*" -- "(someone's) hands (growing) out of one's arse"), the person is all left hands and thumbs, can't do/make anything right.

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