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The meaning and origin of the expression: Pop your clogs

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Pop your clogs

What's the meaning of the phrase 'Pop your clogs'?


What's the origin of the phrase 'Pop your clogs'?

The euphemistic expression 'pop your clogs' originated in the UK in or around the 1970s. It has the feel of a phrase that is much older: even in the industrial north of the UK clogs have long since ceased to be a common type of footwear. It seems likely that whoever coined it did so with an ear for the archaic. Sadly, whoever that was didn't make it clear why the phrase was coined to mean 'die'.

There have been some speculations, as is always the case when the origin of an evocative sounding phrase is sought.

Theory number one is that 'pop' meant 'pawn', as in 'pop goes the weasel'. Northern factory workers, who wore clogs, might have pawned them when they were about to die, as they would no longer need them.

Theory number two is that the 'pop' just meant 'die', as in 'pop off'.

Neither of the above rings true, not least because there's not a scrap of evidence to support either of them.

What we do know is that the phrase is found in print from 1970 onward. It appeared in the Pick of Punch for that year:

He was forced to retire in 1933 after a disastrous Catholic/Protestant punch-up among the bugs. He's just popped his clogs.

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