Informant is a 20 year-old, female, college student studying at the University of Southern California. She is half Japanese and half Chinese.
Informant: I know this saying called “You are the bee’s knees.”
Collector: What does this saying mean to you?
Informant: It just means that someone is really wonderful. That someone’s really great. The person that you’re calling the bee’s knees is someone you really like and admire.
Collector: Where did you learn this?
Informant: I’ve always just heard it around. I hear people say it from time to time.
Collector: Why do you like it?
Informant: I just think it’s cute. And also it’s something that I hear a lot.
I think that people say this because it sounds cute–bee’s rhymes with knees, and expressions that rhyme catch on. Also, there’s this idea that bee’s knees are very delicate, and the person that you’re describing is delicate and delightful. On a scientific level, bees collect nectar from flowers on their limbs, so in a way, the sweetness on the bee’s knees can be used to describe someone who is sweet.