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Definition: A heavy blow that knocks someone to the ground. Also refers to something that is exceptional (particularly size. No jokes, please).

Pronunciation: sok-dol-uh-jir


America, 1830s, from the word ‘sock’, which, colloquially, refers to a ‘punch’. A variant of doxology – meaning ‘finality’. Sockdolagising comes from the play ‘Our American Cousin’ – the play famous for being staged in Ford’s Theatre when Lincoln was assassinated. The assassin, John Wilkes Booth, was one of America’s best known actors at the time and knew the play quite well. It is thought that Wilkes Booth waited for the line ‘Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, you sockdolagising old man-trap’. As the audience laughed, Wilkes Booth fired. Thus, one of the last words heard by Lincoln before Wilkes Booth fired that sockdolagising shot was, well, ‘sockdolagising’.

Why This Word:

Sockdolager falls into a strange category of words – i.e., those that are semi-nonsensical and nobody has ever heard of – yet which are instantly understood even when heard for the first time. It is a wonderfully melodic word and one that deserves to be resurrected.

How to use this word in a sentence?

I have a better use for this word than assassination. The Irish nation pinned its 2012 Olympic hopes on the ridiculously talented boxer Katie Taylor. And, indeed, Katie delivered, bringing home the Gold medal. Now I feel that the country owes her. There are three years for commentators to train for the next Olympics. Hopefully the world will hear them rejoice as Katie wins her second Gold Medal by landing an almighty sockdolager – rather than the less dramatic sounding ‘superior technical ability’ of 2012. Hopefully, a sports commentator will read this post and realise just how incomplete his/her life has been without this most memorable of forgotten words.


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Written by Sean Carabini

Seán Carabini is a Dublin-based author. To date, Seán has written the humorous travel memoirs 'Sticking Out in Minnesota' and 'American Road', as well as 'American Road: The poems' - a book of travel poetry related to the memoir. Seán has also developed a podcast based on the book - subscribe to the American Road podcast today! Seán is a committee member of the Irish Writers' Union.

Chrissy Skelton is Seán Carabini's editor. A graduate of the University of Minnesota's Anthropology programme, Chrissy emerged armed with an arsenal of little-known words and cumbersome jargon - all of which will now be off-loaded onto 'unusedwords' readers!


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