The definitions of “go figure” that I found in various dictionaries do not match what I thought it meant. Is it just me?
Here are what I found:
“said to express the speaker’s belief that something is amazing or incredible.”
“used when you tell someone a fact and you then want to say that the fact is surprising, strange or stupid”
“Expresses perplexity, puzzlement, or surprise (as if telling somebody to try to make sense of the situation).”
I thought “go figure” meant the same as “duh!” or “just my luck”. That is, it’s obvious after the fact. It implies “I should have known.”
Let’s take some of the examples that appear in these dictionaries:
“The car wouldn’t start yesterday no matter what I did, but today it works just fine. Go figure.”
My interpretation of this is that, given how unlucky he is in general, in retrospect, it’s obvious that this happened to him again. It’s just part of being unlucky in general.
“She says she wants to have a conversation, but when I try, she does all the talking. Go figure.”
My interpretation for this is that she is already known to the speaker as a talkative person, but since she claims to want a conversation, the speaker gave her another chance, but again, all she does is talk not listen. Duh! The speaker should have known. It should not be a surprise to the speaker.
“The paint was really good, so they stopped making it - go figure, right?”
Again, what is implied here is not something surprising or unexpected; it’s the exact opposite. The speaker is being sarcastic. Because consumers have no appreciation for good products, they all fail, and bad products like Microsoft Windows thrive. “Duh! I should have known that they would stop making it.”
When people are genuinely surprised and puzzled about something, and they want someone to go figure it out. I generally hear people say, “figure that one out.” I find this very different from “go figure”. The latter has a sense of irony or sarcasm that the former does not have. It almost means the opposite. That is, “forget it, don’t even bother trying to figure it out because it’s just my luck,” or “don’t bother figuring it out because people are just stupid.”