I Believe . . . This Makes NO Sense

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Thu Nov 13 02:51:08 UTC 2008

> When was the last time you heard someone talk to 'cleaning X's
> clock'? And WTF did _that_ mean???

Here's my guess: originally "clean the clock of [the locomotive]" meant
"bring [the locomotive] to an abrupt halt", "clock" probably originally
referring to some gauge with a pointer which would sweep across its face
when the engine was coming to a stop.

Then "clean [someone's] clock" = "stop [someone] in his tracks". Then
"clean [someone's] clock" = "defeat [someone] utterly". I guess.

Here are some early citations:


-- Doug Wilson

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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