Putting a Sock in it: a Brief Exploration of Sock Idioms!

"Put a Sock In It", "Bless Your Cotton Socks", "Pull Your Socks Up" - where did these expressions come from?

20/02/2018

A surprise monthly sock subscription box delivered to a loved one is the gift that says more than words. But speaking of words, we’ve all heard those odd expressions that are connected to everyone’s favourite accessory but do you know where they come from? Take for example ‘put a sock in it’ – there can’t be many of us who, as kids, didn’t hear that at least once a week from an exasperated parent. But where does the expression originate from? We did the legwork for you and found out…

Put a Sock In It

Apparently every parent’s favourite expression was first used at the beginning of the 20th Century – its first mention in print was in 1919 in literary magazine The Athenaeum. As we know, the phrase is used when you want someone to shut up; the idea being that shoving a sock into someone’s mouth would, naturally, render them silent! Some sources also suggest that the sock in question may have been used to dampen the sound coming from a gramophone – probably by parents who weren’t fond of the jazz records that their offspring were playing during this era.

Bless Your Cotton Socks

We have one George Edward Lynch Cotton to thank for this expression. Cotton was the Bishop of Calcutta, India in 1858 where he established schools for Eurasian children. So that his students weren’t running around barefoot, Cotton arranged for socks to be delivered to his schools. Being a man of the cloth, Cotton would bless any school supplies before they were used, however, one staff member jumped the gun and handed out a batch of socks before the Bishop had blessed them. Consequently future sock deliveries were labelled “Cotton’s socks for blessing”. Language has a habit of changing and “Cotton’s socks” morphed into “cotton socks”. When, in 1866, the unfortunate Bishop drowned in the River Ganges, the Archbishop received a message asking “Who will bless his cotton socks?”

Pull Your Socks Up

This expression was used in a version of the fairy tale, Jack and the Beanstalk written in 1893 as a means of telling a character ‘not to be scared’ – a little like how we use “Pull yourself together” now. The phrase as we know it today, to indicate that someone needs to work harder or straighten themselves out, likely stems from the fact that socks used to be made without an elasticated top; meaning slouchy socks were the bane of parents and teachers everywhere who despaired of the sight of schoolboys in shorts with their socks scruffily wrinkled around their ankles – hence the expression “Pull your socks up”.

If you know someone who needs to get their act together and pull their socks up, why not treat them to a sock subscription from Socks In A Box? They’ll receive monthly socks – with a design handpicked by you – for as long as you choose. And if that won’t knock their socks off, what will?!

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