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Nonce word,[1] from sockdolager + -ize + -ing. Coined 1858 by Tom Taylor for the play Our American Cousin. Taylor presumably learned sockdolager from Dictionary of Americanisms (1848) by John Russell Bartlett and used it to evoke Americanness in his play’s title character.[1]


sockdologizing (not comparable)

  1. (nonce word) Ambiguous term of abuse; scheming.[1]
    • 1858, Tom Taylor, Our American Cousin:
      "Don't know the manners of good society, eh? Wal, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, old gal — you sockdologizing old man-trap."
    • 1988, Defa Samka, Pony Soldiers:
      But these confabulated, sockdologizing tins refuse to warm up. I swear they are doing it to perversely annoy me.
    • 2004, Gene Weingarten, Regina Barreca, I'm with Stupid: One Man. One Woman. 10,000 Years of Misunderstanding Between the Sexes Cleared Right Up, Simon and Schuster, →ISBN, page viii:
      And finally, I thank my friend and boss Tom Shroder, the editor at the Post who has refereed the Gene-Gina wars from the start. Tom is belligerent, arrogant, insufferably intolerant of all views not his own, and in general a sockdologizing old poop who is of no value whatsoever except for being the best humor editor alive.

Usage notes[edit]

The term is not given enough context for an unambiguous definition,[1] but it is clearly an insult. It is best known for its role in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln:[1] the line containing sockdologizing was chosen by John Wilkes Booth as his cue to shoot Lincoln, as he knew from experience that it was the one that tended to evoke the most laughter, which he hoped would cover the sound of the shot.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 14 American English Abroad, Richard W. Bailey, 14.1 Introduction, pp. 456–458, in The Cambridge History of the English Language, Volume 6, 1992