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One more theory

Posted by ESC on June 09, 2003

In Reply to: Put up your dukes... posted by James Briggs on June 09, 2003

: : Any ideas on the origin of "put up yer dukes," when advising someone to prepare to defend himself?

: This is circuitous rhyming slang. Duke of Yorks = forks = slang for fingers. 18th century

PUT UP YOUR DUKES - "Get ready to fight. The connection between 'duke' and 'fist' is obscure. It may be that the word derives from the Latin 'dux,' meaning leader; one leads with one's fists. Or perhaps 'duke' grew out of the old Cockney habit of rhyming, which gave us 'the Duke of York's forks.' The forks are the fingers, which are part of the hands, etc. In either case, the expression began as British slang in the 1870s, and by 1879 'Macmillan's Magazine' was using the word (with a translation): 'I said I would not go if he put his dukes (hands) on me.'" From the "Dictionary of Cliches" by James Rogers (Ballantine Books, New York, 1985).

See also - the meaning an dorigin of 'Put up your dukes'.