Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

Sockdolager – Wacky Word Wednesday

Wouldn’t be nice if you always had the final word in every argument? If your answer is yes, then you are in for a treat. Today’s wacky word, taken from Termwiki.com, is just the thing you need to carry the day.

sockdolager

[sok-dol-uh-jer]

-noun

1. Something that settles a matter, a decisive blow or answer.

2. Something outstanding or exceptional.

The word sockdolager is one of the wackiest words coined in America, arriving in the early 19th century and accompanied by words such as hornswoggle, absquatulate, and skedaddle. There’s not enough evidence to determine where it came from exactly, but some etymologists suspect that it is a combination of sock, meaning to give somebody a blow, and doxology, the little hymn of praise sung towards the end of a church service. An article in an issue of the Chicago Daily Tribune from March 19, 1893 gives a more detailed speculation:

A writer in the March Atlantic gives this as the origin of the slang word “socdollager,” current some time ago. “Socdollager” was the uneducated man’s transposition of “doxologer,” which was the familiar New England rendering of “doxology.” This was the Puritan term for the verse ascription used at the conclusion of every hymn, like the “Gloria,” at the end of a chanted psalm. On doctrinal grounds it was proper for the whole congregation to join in the singing, so that it became a triumphant winding up of the whole act of worship. Thus it happened that “socdollager” became the term for anything which left nothing else to follow; a decisive, overwhelming finish, to which no reply was possible.

Aside from its literal meaning of a heavy or knock-down blow, sockdolager also came to mean something that was exceptional in any respect.

However, in 1865, the word sockdolager came to denote a tragic moment in American history. In Tom Taylor’s play Our American Cousin, there occurs the line, “Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, you sockdologising old man-trap.” The line received a tumult of laughter and as the audience roared, assassin John Wilkes Booth pulled the trigger and killed President Abraham Lincoln. Those were the last words Lincoln ever heard.

To understand the word in a less calamitous sense, here are a couple of sentence examples:

  • For a while I was completely stumped, but then, all of a sudden, I got a sockdolager of an idea. (Merriam-Webster)
  • His retort was unquestionably correct, a true sockdolager of an answer. (Uphill Writing)

We hope you’ve learned something from today’s edition of Wacky Word Wednesday. See you next time as we turn the spotlight on another peculiar word.

If you’re interested in learning more wacky words, make sure to subscribe to our RSS feed for automatic updates from T for Translation!

Wouldn’t be nice if you always had the final word in every argument? If your answer is yes, then you are in for a treat. Today’s wacky word, taken from Termwiki.com, is just the thing you need to carry the day.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.