Posted by Bob on February 21, 2002

In Reply to: Knock posted by ESC on February 21, 2002

: : : : : : : The question came up in conversation late one night, enough said....

: : : : : : : Where does the phrase 'she got knocked up' come from?

: : : : : : Excellent question. I could have sworn blind that this was London slang, because it's in such widespread usage over here, but a little research assures me that it's US-based. I have no clue how or why it originated, though.

: : : : : : As a side note, it's an interesting little phrase, and typical of the subtle complexities of English. Those two little words have at least four quite different meanings, as follows:-

: : : : : : a) To arouse or awaken. "Knock me up at 6:30."
: : : : : : b) To create or cook hastily. "I knocked up bacon and eggs."
: : : : : : c) To score at sport. "The captain knocked up a quick 30."
: : : : : : d) To impregnate. "She got knocked up last year."

: : : : : : There are probably others. Never let it be said that English is an easy language to learn.

: : : : :
: : : : : A little site called asserts that the term orignates in London. It doesn't give any other explanation but it is listed along with the term "knocking shop" for brothel. I'm not sure whether knocking shop is used here in the US, but it seems like it might be a clue to the phrases origin. Strangely the term 'knock' does not seem to be used as a euphamism for sex otherwise.

: : : : : It's not inconceivable that it was orignally a British English term that migrated, then reappeared later as a uniquely American, just in the same way the spelling of the word 'fetus'is thought to be American when it was originally spelled that way in Britain too.

: : : : Additionally, the getting-pregnant usage is widespread in America, but the other usages cited (arouse, cook hastily, score at sport) are strictly UK ... unheard here.

: : : The awaken usage used to be widespread enough in the UK for us to have 'knockers up' - a profession devoted to the task of tapping on the bedroom windows of factory workers to wake them for early morning shifts. Can't be many of them left now that workers have breakfast TV to get them in the mood.

: : : There's also 'Sagger maker's bottom knockers'. Real people these, who do what you might expect - they knock the bottoms of saggers. Saggers are the containers that are used in kilns to protect the pots being fired from damage. SMBKs are the people who clean them out.

: : Eric Partridge, A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, says "knocked up" means exhausted, pregnant. For the second meaning, "low: C. 19-20; mainly U.S. [From] 'knock,' v. 1."
: : That definition of "knock" is "(Of a man) to have sexual intercourse (with): low coll.: late C. 16-20. . . . See 'nock,' n., for possible etymology."
: : "'nock.' (As the posteriors, esp. the breech, it is [standard English . . . ] The female pudend: low: late C. 16-18. . . . Lit., a notch."

: There's a bunch of "knock" expressions. Add a chapter on "knock-knock jokes" and you'd have a book.

: Here is a few from the Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang, Volume 2, H-O by J.E. Lighter, Random House, New York, 1994:

: Knock - verb, to copulate. "When I was a young man, in my prime.I knock those young gals, two at a time."
: Knock boots - to copulate.
: Knock off a piece - to copulate.
: Knock - to excel or out do.
: Knock -- to overcome or defeat; ruin. Put an end to an affliction. "I gave you enough morphine to knock the pain." "I knocked my cold."
: Knock - (U.S. military or Naval Academy) to earn a high grade; to pass a course easily.
: Knock - to break into and rob a safe.
: Knock - to hit with a bullet.
: Knock - to find fault with. "Don't knock it until you've tried it."
: Knock - to inform or complain. "He's got to make good with them to keep them from knocking."
: Knock - (Black English) to obtain for yourself, in phrase "knock a nod," to take a nap."
: Knock - (Jazz) to drink copiously from a bottle of liquor or to consume food or drink. As in, "knock back" a drink.
: Knock - to earn. "Knock seven or eight hundred then jump down."
: Knock - to embezzle. "Better a kid who takes ten in tips and knocks a buck.than a dummy who gets half the tips and turns in all she gets."
: Knock - to give or impart to. "Knock me a kiss."
: Knock - to place under arrest or apprehend.
: Knock - to discharge from employment. "They could knock you for drinking on the job."
: Have it knocked - have something successfully under control. "I got it knocked."
: How are you knocking them? - Greeting. "Well, how goes it? How are you knocking them?"
: Knock a glim - to strike a light.
: Knock cold, knock stiff, knock out - to knock someone unconscious, knocked out cold.
: Knock cold -- render speechless. "Mary struck the old lady dumb - 'knocked her cold,' our American cousins would say."
: Knock dead - Similar to "knock cold." "Believe me, in my next book, I'm going to do a wedding scene that'll knock 'em cold."
: Knock for a loop - stunned. "She was knocked for a loop when she lost her job."
: Knock for a row, knock silly, knock into a cocked hat, knock loose, knock seven bells out of, knock his block off, knock his eye out, knock his socks off, knock the spots out of (or off), knock down drag out - strike or beat up. Fight.
: Knock-off - quitting time on the job.
: Knock off - (nautical) to relieve someone at the end of a shift.
: Knock off - in fashion, make a less expensive copy of a designer fashion.
: Knock off - leave.
: Knock it off - (nautical, military originally) a phrase meaning "stop it" or "shut up."
: Knock it off - to complete or perform, to do anything with great enjoyment.
: Knock off - to assign to a bidder at an auction.
: Knock off - to dazzle or impress.
: Knock over - to shoot.
: Knock over - to rob. "He knocked over the liquor store."

: And then there's trailer park etiquette: "Don't come a knockin' when the trailer's rockin'."

And we could mention knockers, a mild vulgarism for breasts ... which makes the British music hall song "knockers up, ladies, knockers up..." particularly amusing to us Yanks.