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Chop, chop. Winding up and winding down

Posted by James Briggs on July 25, 2003

In Reply to: Chop, chop posted by Henry on July 25, 2003

: : : : : : : : : : In Brooklyn and other places in the NYC area it is customary to refer to giving someone a hard time as "busting his chops". I've also heard it used to indicate teasing "Hey, I'm just busting your chops".

: : : : : : : : : : Anyway, I'm wondering where it comes from and especially what the "chops" are. Any ideas?

: : : : : : : : : That'll teach me to ask questions before my morning coffee!

: : : : : : : : Is the British equivalent "winding him up"? Or is that kidding someone?

: : : : : : : 'Kidding' is a pretty good way of describing 'winding up'. However, 'to wind up' sombody can be quite deliberately nasty with the object of getting the person to lose their temper. It seems a perverse pass time, but people do it.

: : : : : : Thanks for the explanation. Between this board and BBC America I can almost understand you guys.

: : : : : All you need to watch on BBC America is Red Dwarf. This progamme sums up our entire culture, without refering to it once.

: : : : Is it winding up, long I, as in winding a watch or a rope?

: : : It's as in winding a watch.

: : Red Dwarf. I'll watch it. Mostly I watch "Changing Rooms" so now I think none of you have adequate closet space. There's probably more to learn, isn't there?

: Yes, that's just why they came out of the closet.
: This is from word-detective;
: Early last year, for instance, I answered a reader's query about the phrase "to bust someone's chops," which means, as the Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang puts it, to "harass by the forcible exertion of one's authority," often by insisting on obedience to pointless rules or orders. Army recruits, for example, assigned by their sergeant to clean their barracks using only toothbrushes, are having their "chops busted." I noted that the phrase is of relatively recent origin, first appearing in print only in the 1950's, and theorized that "chops" in this case probably harks back to its original 16th century slang meaning of "mouth" or "lips," a "bust in the chops" being the equivalent of a punch in the mouth.

Winding up is also used to describe the closure of an activity. - 'Im winding up my business'. Pereversely, again, this is another example in English where 'up' and 'down' can mean the same thing, because it's quite possible to say 'I'm winding down my business'. Odd.