Posted by ESC on August 24, 2003
In Reply to: Run/Go like the Clappers posted by Lotg on August 24, 2003
: : During a very interesting visit to the Chatham Dockyard in Kent in the UK, we were told that the phrase "to run like the clappers" comes from when the bell was rung to tell the workers it was time for work in the morning. As it got closer to starting time, the bell was rung faster. Now Chatham dockyard is NOT small and the guide said that the phrase was used when latecomers realised they still had a good 15-20 minute walk across the yards to get to their place of work, and so they picked up speed and ran as fast as the clappers (of the starting bell). Does this sound plausible?
: ::: Yes, I'd really like to know about this one too. I use it all the time, but don't know where it comes from.
Look in the archives under "clappers." It says, in part:
clappers, like the. 'Very fast, or very hard (e.g. "run like the clappers"; or "the clappers of hell").' Gerald Emanuel, letter of March 29, 1945: C. 20; since ca. 1925, much used by the R.A.F. As _clapper_ suggests _bell_, so _hell_ rhymes on _bell_: and _go like hell_ is to run very hard indeed.
From A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, Volume II: The Supplement