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Put up your dukes

Posted by Victoria S Dennis on February 19, 2008 at 23:21:

In Reply to: Put up your dukes posted by RRC on February 19, 2008 at 20:06:

: : : I've seen a lot of sites place the origin of 'Put up your dukes' to come from put up your Duke of Yorks etc. However I'm currently writing a paper on an ancient Greek source, which involves Polydeukes, an unmatched boxer in ancient Greek times. Could it be possible that Dukes came from the "deukes" part of Polydeukes name. Polydeukes was also a son of Zeus and has been attributed to be one of the twins of Gemini.

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: I'm sorry but I can't resist the pun... "It sounds like a load of Pollux to me." Since the origin is not definitely known, it is not a complete impossibility, however many better minds than mine have applied themselves to the problem and not come to your conclusion.

The phrase seems certainly to have originated in low-life "hard man" talk. Thus, your suggestion requires the supposition that 19th-century working-class bruisers were so familiar with Greek mythology that even a minor character such as Polydeukes would have been familar enough to be a proverbial name. Further, it requires the supposition that 19th-century working-class bruisers were so advanced in the classics that they pronounced it with the hard Greek -k- rtaher than the soft -c- sound that was being taught in the public and grammar schools of the day. I can't swallow either proposition, myself. (VSD)