Knock Yourself Out!

Discussion in 'English Only' started by psydux, Jul 5, 2006.

  1. psydux Member

    France (+ English teacher)

    I'd like to give an authentic definition of the phrase "Knock yourself out", as in:
    "Can I have a piece of cake?"
    "Of course! Knock yourself out!"

    I know it means to make the most of something, but being French, I'm having a hard time putting it in more general terms.

    Can someone help?
  2. CatStar Senior Member

    English, Ireland
    It means: of course you can have some and take as much as you want

    hope that clears it up,
  3. Kelly B

    Kelly B Senior Member

    USA English
    "Go right ahead!" or "feel free" usually would work as a substitute.

    In many contexts, there is an underlying notion that "you certainly may if you like, but I don't really think it's a good idea." The phrase would be said with a tone of voice that makes this clear.

    When talking about cake, though, it would probably be said in a light tone of voice, without that feel. Then the underlying notion is "you can get it yourself" in a pleasant way.
  4. psydux Member

    France (+ English teacher)

    I know what it means, but I'd like to give a 'dictionary-like" definition...
    Example: "To knock oneself out (with sth) means..."

  5. french4beth

    french4beth Senior Member

    You practically lost consciousness (knocked yourself out) in doing XXX.
  6. dylanG3893

    dylanG3893 Senior Member

    United States
    Frenchforbeth, your extremely wrong. That is only the litteral defintion and she wants the definition of an expression. Knock your self out means, go ahead, or of course, in a way that, with a very slight indication of a polite 'I dont care' or 'you dont have to ask me', means to make the best of something to gain or something being asked for.
  7. french4beth

    french4beth Senior Member

    Step down, dylang - are you saying that the American Heritage Dictionary is wrong? :confused: Let me know when you finish rewriting the dictionary (here: ;)

    In the above context, it's just a humorous way of saying 'Go ahead and do it'. You're obviously not going to exhaust yourself in cutting a piece of cake.:p
  8. dylanG3893

    dylanG3893 Senior Member

    United States
    French4Beth, I mean that this is correct, but it is the wrong definition in terms of what she is looking for! If she thinks that 'knock out' means this, then she probably will think that 'know yourself out' means 'punch yourself in the face to the point where you become uncoinsious.' lol
  9. KittyCatty

    KittyCatty Senior Member

    English UK
    In this context couldn't you simply suggest as a definition
    Knock oneself out:
    (colloquial/humorous) To help oneself
    ? Anyone agree?
  10. river Senior Member

    U.S. English
    Knock yourself out: Feel free to try. Go ahead. Indulge yourself.
  11. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    For some reason that is beyond my comprehension, AE slang has adopted knock yourself out to mean enjoy yourself, indulge yourself, have a good time (first recorded reference, 1942).

    This usage may have crossed the Atlantic, but it hasn't come as far as me yet:) To me, knock yourself out has the meaning french4beth quoted.
  12. KittyCatty

    KittyCatty Senior Member

    English UK
    Hi panjandrum!
    Yes, I would never use the phrase "Knock yourself out" in this context, and I never hear it used like this by the people around me. However, I know this meaning from US films and sitcoms. So it has crossed the Atlantic but isn't used over here! I agree that when I think of knocking myself out it is due to extreme clumsiness rather than extreme self-indulgence :)
  13. cirrus

    cirrus Senior Member

    Crug Hywel
    UK English
    Knock yourself out in the sense of enjoy, go ahead is a completely new meaning to the phrase for me. Yet another BE/ AE thing.

    Here if you ask someone a favour in the UK and all you need is a bit of help you might turn down an offer of help if it meant the other person going to a great deal of trouble on your behalf.

    For example imagine someone says I'm flying to Glasgow tomorrow morning I must remember to to book a cab. You then offer to take them to the airport. The other person says "don't knock yourself out" you might reply "I'm not, I'm going there anyway, I am picking up some friends."
  14. mirandolina

    mirandolina Senior Member

    Padua, Italy
    Scotland - English
    I've certainly never heard it..... here in Italy American sit-coms are dubbed, so I've been spared the dubious advantage of learning the latest expressions.
    The only way I might "knock myself out" would be if I left the kitchen cupboard door open and then walked into it!
  15. billyboy New Member

    not heard of 'knock yourself out' but from context would appear to be saying what I would recognise as ''fill yer boots'' lol, meaning you are very welcome to help yourself to as much as you want. In another context, ''dont knock yourself out'' cynically becomes ''dont kill yourself'', sarcastically meaning that you are not putting much effort into what you are doing! Sincerely said it means ''be careful and dont do too much, tho I am grateful''
  16. mgarizona

    mgarizona Senior Member

    Phoenix, AZ
    US - American English
    This is from the American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms:

    knock oneself out 1. Make a great effort, as in I was knocking myself out to finish on time. This expression also is put negatively, Don't knock yourself out, meaning "don't exert yourself; it's not worth that much effort." [c. 1930] 2. Enjoy yourself, have a good time, as in You're off to Europe? Knock yourself out. [slang; mid-1900s] Both usages allude to knocking oneself unconscious.

    Unconsciousness is a recurrent theme in our idioms. You can describe a beautiful woman as being "a knock-out," implying that she's so beautiful she renders you unconscious. We "talk until we're blue in the face" which is one step away from unconsciousness.
  17. roniy Senior Member

    Brooklyn NY
    ISRAEL: Fluent Hebrew ( Speak Russian, Learning English)
    Sorry to interrupt your discussion.

    But how :
    "Can I have a piece of cake?"
    "Of course! Knock yourself out!"

    Means to make a great effort to the best ?????

    And some say it is identical to "go ahead"
    to make agreat effort and go ahead mean the same ???

  18. GenJen54

    GenJen54 Senior Member

    Downright Pleasant, USA
    USA - English
    You have to pay careful attention to context.

    I would guess that the second version (according to the American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms) is more widely used.

    This is the meaning that is associated with "enjoy yourself."

    Obviously, if someone is offering you a piece of cake, they are not asking you to make great efforts to eat it (well, they might, but it's highly doubtful). Most likely, they are telling you "Sure, go ahead. Enjoy."

    This is how I understand - in context - the expression about 90% of the time.

    I rarely hear it used to mean "make great effort." We have too many other expressions for that.
  19. roniy Senior Member

    Brooklyn NY
    ISRAEL: Fluent Hebrew ( Speak Russian, Learning English)
    I think everything is clearified now.

    Thank you.
  20. foxfirebrand

    foxfirebrand Senior Member

    The Northern Rockies
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    I don't agree with most of this thread, except for an early post of Kelly B who noted that the expression tends to mean "go ahead, but it might not be a good idea."

    "I don't think this is the right trail. I'm going to go straight upslope and scope it out. I think the trail we want is over in the other drainage."
    "Knock yourself out." (I say as I continue down the right trail.)

    "I don't like the interest you're showing in my sister. If you don't back off, I'm gonna do something about it."
    "Hey, knock yourself out."

    It's a favorite expression of mine. To me it means, go ahead and try, give it your damnedest-- or in the context offered above, "you can eat till you pop as far as I'm concerned-- where'd you get the idea I'm in charge of portion control."

    "Knock yourself out" can be humorous among friends, but it also has an edge, and can be a little rude or counter-confrontational.
  21. MarcB Senior Member

    US English
    Both of these examples are how I have heard them.

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