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Sock it to 'em

Posted by Smoke y Stover on March 10, 2008 at 00:45:

In Reply to: Sock it to 'em posted by Jim Hart on March 09, 2008 at 23:37:

: Does anyone know the derivation of the phrase "sock it to 'em"? I have found it in "A Hazard of New Fortunes" by William Dean Howells, about 1899.

Deriovation: the verb to sock has long been used to mean to push or thrust something into something else, also to strike someone, even to strike or punish someone psychologically. "Sock it to them," would be the cry of the crowd at fight, for instance, or the cry of the fans at a game of basketball or some other sport. The OED suggests "give it to 'em" as one approximation of this slang phrase. It can be used psychologically in many circumstances, such as, if one of your number has been called to face some kind of inquisition, you might encourage him by saying, "Sock it to him." (Perhaps the inquisitor has been similarly encouraged by HIS friends.)

It's a flexible phrase. Judy Carne made the phrase "Sock it to me!" famous on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In (1968-73. During the show's first two years she would regularly end some little speech with "Sock it to me," and someone would douse her with water or otherwise assault her dignity. The phrase had become popular earlier, in an album called "Devil with a Blue Dress," and later as a single, "Sock it to me." Since then phrase has sometimes been used to indicate a loud or noisy style of music.

I've no doubt that this general meaning of "sock" is partly the origin of the phrase "rock 'em, sock 'em."

The OED has cited examples from 1877 on showing the flexibility with which the phrase has been used, including these examples:

"1970 S. SHELDON Naked Face ii. 16 She reached between his legs and stroked him, whispering, 'Go, baby. Sock it to me.' 1970 Melody Maker 11 July 19/7 It's good to hear Pickett getting away from the sock-it-to-me and into gentler songs. 1971 West Indian World 12 Nov. 14/3 Back to the sock-it-to-me's with Jesse James's 'Don't Nobody Want to Get Married'..which storms breathlessly along complete with hard-hitting bass and wow-wow guitars. 1977 New Yorker 2 May 34/2, I can't afford a second divorce. Daphne would really sock it to me. 1978 Railway Age 25 Dec. 25/2 Does all this boil down to some kind of accounting legerdemain that, in the end, will be socking it to the taxpayers?"

Socking it to the public, or socking it to the taxpayer, obviously means sticking them with the cost, usually of something questionable. Socking it to the ex-husband at a divorce is a time-honored tradition, meaning stick him with as many demands and costs as you can.