Language is a funny old thing. We take it for granted most of the time, but it’s incredible to think that countless people have come to almost the same understanding of what some randomly ordered letters refer to. It’s even stranger when you start looking at things like slang words, or words that were once on the tip of every tongue that no one even remembers anymore. Some of these words need to be brought back. Others need to be forgotten…


We kind of understand why sockdolager fell from favor, and it’s a weird story. Linguist James Harbeck says it’s an American word that became popular in the 19th century, and it’s a very American word, indeed. It means something along the lines of a final blow, whether it’s a physical one or a verbal one. It’s the knock-out punch, it’s the humdinger you deliver to end whatever shenanigans are afoot.
It’s also likely one of the last words President Abraham Lincoln ever heard. Right before he was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth, an actor on-stage for the performance of Our American Cousin delivered the line, «Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, you sockdologising old man-trap.» The audience went wild because that’s what passed for humor in 1865, and amid the laughter, Booth fired that fatal shot.
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