[Ads-l] "snatch a knot in" = "hit, spank"

Clai Rice cxr1086 at LOUISIANA.EDU
Fri Jul 28 14:39:17 UTC 2017

Having grown up in Athens, Georgia, I remember this expression well. We 
exchanged between snatch a knot and jerk a knot but it was always in our 
heads. In my personal folk etymology, it derived from the fact that jerking 
someone's hair quickly would in fact raise a knot on their head. A friend's 
mother would grab us by the ear and pull us around if we were acting the 
fool, and if you tried to dodge she'd sometimes get hair instead, which 
served her just as well, and would raise a knot. My friend and all his 
brothers always wore crewcuts, so I assumed, half-joking, that many of my 
friends, both black and white, selected very short hair styles expressly to 
make it more difficult for their head to get a knot snatched in it by their 
aunts, mothers, or grandmothers. I've never taken it as a synonym for 
"spank," though when I think about it now it does seem to represent a benign 
corporal punishment, though more opportunistic than the average spanking, 
which involves more of a production. Saying you would snatch a knot is 
someone's ass or tail just sounds confused to me, euphemistic at best.

Clai Rice

-----Original Message-----
From: Ben Zimmer [mailto:bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM]
Sent: Wednesday, July 26, 2017 3:42 PM
Subject: "snatch a knot in" = "hit, spank"

Expressing befuddlement — and engendering it at the same time — over the 
Senate’s failure to pass, as yet, any of its several legislative efforts to 
overhaul the Affordable Care Act, Rep. Buddy Carter, a Georgia Republican, 
offered a colorful and presumably aggressive strategy during an MSNBC 
interview Wednesday: "Somebody needs to go over there to that Senate and 
snatch a knot in their ass."

Video here:

Twitter thread discussing the expression:

I don't see anything in the slang dictionaries on this. It appears to be 
primarily a Southernism -- perhaps originating in Georgia and the Florida 
panhandle. The earliest cite I found is from Pensacola, Fla., and the second 
earliest is from Roy Blount Jr., who grew up in Decatur, Ga.

Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal, Dec. 25, 1978, p. 64 "Santa pulls them aside 
and gives them the word he's going to snatch a knot in their heads if they 
don't behave," he says with a twinkle in his eye.
Roy Blount Jr., _One Fell Soup: Or, I'm Just a Bug on the Windshield of 
Life_, 1982 [1984], p. 71 "But if you could find it in your heart not to 
saddle them with a criminal record, could you just let me snatch a knot in 
And I would snatch a knot in them.
I don't mean physically. I don't pound on my children.
Springfield (Mo.) Leader and Press, June 16, 1986, p. 11 I am willing to 
concede my suggestion that those people snatch a knot in that child might be 
Philadelphia Daily News, Sep. 28, 1987, p. 37 If you read the piece 
carefully, you can feel the pain and indignation of a parent who would 
snatch a knot in her child before she would see him become one the vermin 
who sell death and misery on street corners.


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

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

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