Knuckle Down

Posted by ESC on September 12, 1999

In Reply to: Knuckle Down posted by Bruce Kahl on September 12, 1999

: I told my daughters this week that summer is: over and they now have to "knuckle down" now that school has started.
: Anybody?????????

From the Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins by William and Mary Morris (HarperCollins):

"knuckle down to -- You may take your pick of two theories of the origin of this phrase. 'Knuckle,' which we use nowadays to mean the knuckles of the hand, once meant any bone joint, including those of the human spine. Thus to 'knuckle down' meant to 'put one's back into the job, to work as hard as one could.' But the other theory pleases us more. It's taken from the game of marbles. A boy can play marbles fairly casually, but when the issue is drawn and a lad is keenly contesting a match, he 'knuckles down' with his fist to the earth to direct his shot better. This use of 'knuckle down' is recorded in the 'Oxford Dictionary' as going back at least to 1740, so its claim to historical sanction is pretty sound too."