Clean Your Clock/Clock You

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Dimcl, Aug 15, 2007.

  1. Dimcl Senior Member

    British Columbia, Canada
    Canadian English
    Does anyone know the origin of these phrases? My Dad regularly uses them and I can't seem to find out where they come from.

    For those of you unfamiliar with these old sayings, to "clean your clock" means to beat you up, thrash you, etc. To "clock you" means to hit you in the face.

    I'm guessing that "clock" is related to the human face but that's all I know. I've also heard that it's BE slang and/or that it's a phrase developed from sporting events... Any help is appreciated.
  2. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    I'll go hunting for the etymology when time permits. For now, just a specultation--clock you may be a reference to the ten count in boxing. If a boxer is knocked down, and doesn't get up from the mat by a count of ten, he is "knocked out" and loses the match.

    Edit: Ahh! Easier than I had expected.

    Great source for etymology:
  3. bibliolept

    bibliolept Senior Member

    Northern California
    AE, Español
  4. mtymx Senior Member

    spanish México
    what is the BE slang?
  5. Dimcl Senior Member

    British Columbia, Canada
    Canadian English
    Thanks for that, Cuchu and Bibliolept. For some reason, I didn't stumble on that site when I "Googled" it (but the site is now bookmarked on my computer!).

    Interestingly, Bibliolept, my Dad was a railroader in his youth and came from a family of railroad men so I kind of like that connection to the phrases. Dad, of course, can't remember where he heard it or picked it up. I must admit, though, that "clocking" someone sounds more like the boxing source.

    Mtymx, my reference to the possibility of it being BE slang was that I had heard that the phrases originated in Britain.
  6. Packard

    Packard Senior Member

    USA, English
    I've heard and used these phrases in the Metro New York area. I don't think it is a localism.

    "Try that again and I'll clock you and you won't ever get up."

    "Boy, he really got clocked, huh? For a minute there I thought he was dead."

    I haven't used the phrases recently--I'm a kinder, gentler Packard.
  7. katie_here Senior Member

    The last thread prompted this.

    I have heard of the expression to "clock you" as in

    "I've clocked you, I can see what you are doing". meaning I've seen you. I'm aware of what you are doing.

    To clock .. to catch sight of someone/thing.
  8. bibliolept

    bibliolept Senior Member

    Northern California
    AE, Español
    This specific use/meaning is not one with which I'm familiar. I can only think it stems from the more common use "clock in" to mean that you record someone's time; it's used figuratively--that is, not used to refer to racing or sports--but usually refers to time measurements (or possibly frequency).
  9. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    I have never heard of this meaning for the word. I am very familiar with the meaning "to time with a clock":
    He clocked one minute and ten seconds in his first lap around the track in the Greenwhitemobile.

    I am also familiar with the meaning "to hit or to strike, especially the face"
    You keep annoying me like that and I swear I will clock you.

    But "to catch sight of someone"? No, that's a new one for me...
  10. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Clock is a very versatile verb.
    From the OED
    - to time, by the clock;
    - to attain a certain time in a race;
    - with in/out, to record one's time;
    - to punch in the face (Australian slang);
    - to watch, observe, notice (slang, originally US);
    - to activate a bit of technological stuff by means of a repeating pulse;
    - to fraudulently wind back a vehicle's odometer (slang).
  11. Packard

    Packard Senior Member

    USA, English
    Our factory workers "punch a clock" (to record their arrival at work).

    They often say something like this:

    Did you clock in?

    Are you on the clock?

    When do you clock out?

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