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The meaning and origin of the expression: Pop your clogs

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Pop your clogs

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

To 'pop your clogs' is to die.

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

Pop your clogsThe 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' being referred to is a synonym of 'pawn', as is also theorised as the origin of 'pop goes the weasel'. 'Popping' has indeed been used to mean pawning since the early 18th century. However, the sense seems rather strained for pawning to be the origin though as, if someone dies, it would be someone else who pawned/popped the clogs so 'popping one's clogs' doesn't quite make sense.

Theory number two is that the 'pop' just meant 'die', as in 'pop off'. This has a little more going for it as 'pop' has existed in the language meaning 'die' for several centuries. It is found in Samuel Foote's comic play The Patron, 1764:

If lady Pepperpot should happen to pop off.

However, it may be that neither of the above is the source of the expression and that 'pop your clogs' may just be a nonsense phrase with no particular meaning, like 'hopping off the twig'. The late arrival of the phrase does suggest it being deliberately coined to sound old and meaningful.

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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