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Re: Kick in the slats

Posted by Smokey Stover on May 14, 2007

In Reply to: Kick in the slats posted by Jim Soar on May 14, 2007

: Can anyone tell me the origin or meaning of the phrase "kick in the slats", as in "he deserves a good ....."?

The slats, in American slang, are ribs. The Oxford English Dictionary quotes such a use of the term from 1898. Its first citation of "kick in the slats," meaning "kick in the ribs," is from 1944. Although there certainly are brutes who literally kick people in the ribs (and animals that can be provoked to give a literal kick in the ribs), the slang version is generally a figurative use.

Actually there are two distinguishable figurative uses. Giving someone or some group a kick in the slats, or a good kick, or a kick in the ass, or a kick in the behind, may indicate a desire to prod him or them into a better or livelier performance. And sometimes such a kick may just be punishment (probably not from actual kicking) without being specifically directed at improvement. To give someone a swift kick is of the second kind, not usually the first, as in: "I'd like to give that so-and-so a good, swift kick."