knockoff / knock off

Discuss word origins and meanings.

knockoff / knock off

Post by Ken Greenwald » Fri Feb 03, 2006 5:53 pm

KNOCKOFF / KNOCK-OFF / KNOCK OFF as a verb and noun has several slang meanings. The following, at least for me, is an example of one of the less familiar ones:
<2006 “At first, Ms. Rogers thought she had snagged a great deal. But when the jewelry arrived from a seller in Rhode Island, her well-trained eye told her that all of the pieces were KNOCKOFFS. . . . . Of course, fakes are sold everywhere, but the anonymity and reach of the Internet makes it perfect for selling KNOCKOFFS. And eBay, the biggest online marketplace, is the center of a new universe of counterfeit with virtually no policing.”—‘New York Times,’ 29 January>
KNOCKOFF/KNOCK-OFF [1963] noun (also verb and adjective in same sense): A copy or close imitation, fake, counterfeit, cheap copies of designer garments, cheap reproductions of antiques, etc.

Although many sources list this relatively new term, none that I could find offer an explanation as to where it came from. I see two possibilities. 1) It follows from the verb KNOCK-OFF [1917], which was originally an underworld word meaning to steal (or PINCH), as in dislodge from a counter or pushcart during minor thefts. According to the 1963 quote below the newer meaning was born in the garment industry and meant stealing a competitors designs and then making and selling them at a cheaper price. 2) KNOCK-OFF [late 19th century and still in use] has the meaning to do quickly and perfunctorily, which might describe how the dressmakers who stole the ideas from the original designers operated (see 1963 quote).
<1963 “KNOCKING-OFF is trade slang for copying a competitor’s dress, cutting corners to sell it for a lower price, then marketing it to harvest dollars that might otherwise go to the dress’s creator.”—‘Saturday Evening Post,’ 21 September, page 30>

<1966 “Copying designs to sell for less has a name in the industry. It is called the ‘KNOCKOFF.’”—‘New York Times,’ 25 January, page 44>

<1970 1 “People who appreciate genuine pate de foie gras . . . might like to serve it on a decently designed plate, and not on a KNOCK OFF . . . of 18th Century English china.”—‘Washington Post,’ 30 September, B. Page 14/1>

<1971 “Her jersey-and-tweed suits won a cool reception from the press, but soon nearly every KNOCKOFF house was competing to turn out the closest replica.”— ‘Time Magazine,’ 25 January>

<1978 “Soon huge textile mills in Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan were ‘KNOCKING OFF’ cheap imitations.”—‘Houston Chronicle,’ 22 January, X4>

<1982 “It started out like a quickie Hollywood KNOCKOFF of the Patty Hearst story.”— ‘Time Magazine,’ 3 May>

<1986 “Many successful products are being ‘KNOCKED OFF’”—‘New York Times Magazine,’ 22 June, page 55>

<1992 “Artful forgery, rigged document, a KNOCKED-OFF passport of soul.”—in “Harper’s,” (January 1993), page 69>

<1994 “TV talk shows, made-for-TV movies and Mommie Dearest KNOCKOFF books have bombarded America with enough familial dysfunction to make Sophocles himself tear his eyes out.”— ‘Time Magazine,’ 20 June>

<1997 “A clever vegetable-and grain-protein KNOCKOFF of batter-fried nuggets . . . really does taste like chicken but with . . . 75 percent less fat.”—‘Fitness,’ November, page 120/3>

<2002 “Suppose Edison announces the discovery of an incredible new type of filament by introducing a working model into the market. Westinghouse knows a good thing when it sees it, so he reverse engineers Edison’s light bulb and starts selling it under his own brand. Edison sues, but Westinghouse raises the new defense of independent invention. How can Edison prove that Westinghouse’s light bulb is just a KNOCKOFF?”—‘The Yale Law Journal,’ Vol. 111, No. 8, June, page 2275>
(Historical Dictionary of American Slang, Oxford English Dictionary, Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang, How Not To Say What You Mean by Holder)
_______________________

Ken G – February 3, 2006
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knockoff / knock off

Post by Wizard of Oz » Sat Feb 04, 2006 1:28 am

.. Ken in Aus we use knock up to mean make as in, "He can knock up meal in no time." .. or .. "He'll knock you up something." .. I appreciate this is only tangential to your post but my reason for making the post is that I was unable to find this Aussie meaning for knock up in any of the dictionaries .. they give the standard Brit slang meaning of make pregnant and the meaning of a warm up in tennis .. hmmmm just thought it was interesting ..

WoZ of Aus 04/02/06
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knockoff / knock off

Post by Phil White » Sat Feb 04, 2006 1:21 pm

WoZ,

Brits use "knock up" in the same way, often for a meal, but also in the sense of "cobble together", for some sort of makeshift artifact.

I have the feeling that "knock up" in the sense of "making pregnant" is not as popular as it was.
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knockoff / knock off

Post by Erik_Kowal » Sat Feb 04, 2006 3:28 pm

Phil,

Are you referring to the phraseology or the activity?
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knockoff / knock off

Post by Phil White » Sat Feb 04, 2006 5:16 pm

As ever, I refer only to that which I am in a position to judge.
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Post by dalehileman » Sun Feb 05, 2006 12:43 am

Re Woz and Phil: In leftpond we use the expression "knock together," meaning to cobble or assemble hurriedly
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knockoff / knock off

Post by Wizard of Oz » Sun Feb 05, 2006 3:50 am

.. if you have a knock up in mixed doubles does that lead to a love match ? ..

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knockoff / knock off

Post by Bobinwales » Sun Feb 05, 2006 12:40 pm

No WoZ, tennis players cannot have deep meaningful relationships. Love means nothing to them.
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knockoff / knock off

Post by Shelley » Fri Feb 10, 2006 4:27 pm

I have to knock this one up to the top of the list. Sorry. First of all, why is everyone talking about "knock UP", when Ken opened this with "knock OFF"? Just curious.
I have three things on this:
1) When I hear the term "knock off", I think of a whole bunch of identical, molded items on a stick, fresh out of the "oven", with a worker "knocking" them "off" the stick -- or detaching the identical items from their anchor. The rough spot will later get sanded out and there you have it -- another "gen-u-wine, original Mikell Angelo, available at fine stores everywhere"!
2) In high school English one term, I had a wonderful exchange teacher from the UK who told me a good story. When she first arrived in America and stayed in a hotel, she asked the staff there to "knock (her) up" every morning at 7:00 am. She couldn't understand the funny looks she was getting, until a very kind young woman explained the meaning of the phrase here.
3) Last weekend, I chaperoned a bunch of highschoolers on an out-of-town trip. One of my jobs was to perform an 8:00 am "knock up", which meant going up and down the hall banging on all the doors until I heard sounds of life from inside the rooms. Lots 'o' fun, let me tell ya'.
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knockoff / knock off

Post by Bobinwales » Fri Feb 10, 2006 4:41 pm

Shelly. I once offered to knock up a young American lady who had told me not ten minutes before that putting covers on a water bed was like patting a huge fanny. Fanny does not mean bottom in the UK, ladies have fannies, men have a different arrangement altogether.

Knock off to me means to steal. A knocked off dress would either have been shoplifted (or similar), or just the design had been stolen and reproduced. Apart from that it is what we try to do with coconuts in fairgrounds.
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knockoff / knock off

Post by aelnamer » Fri Feb 10, 2006 7:04 pm

Isn’t this term, knockoff, also used when people are bargaining and trying to reduce the price of an item? I also found the following from Word Origin on OneLook.


Knock:
“O.E. cnocian (W.Saxon cnucian), likely of imitative origin. Meaning "deprecate, put down" is from 1892. Knockoff "cheap imitation" is from 1966. Knock out "to stun by a blow for a 10-count" in boxing is short for to knock out of time; slang knockout "attractive person" is from 1892. To knock oneself out "make a great effort" is from 1936. Knock-kneed first attested 1774. Command knock it off "stop it" is first recorded 1902. Knocker "door banger" is from 1598; knockers "a woman's breasts" is from 1941. Knock up is 1663 in sense of "arouse by knocking at the door;" however it is little used in this sense in Amer.Eng., where the phrase means "get a woman pregnant" (1813), possibly ult. from knock "to copulate with" (1598; cf. slang knocking-shop "brothel," 1860).
"Knocked up in the United States, amongst females, the phrase is equivalent to being enciente, so that Englishmen often unconsciously commit themselves when amongst our Yankee cousins." [John Camden Hotten, "The Slang Dictionary," London, 1860]”

Ahmed
10th of February,2006
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knockoff / knock off

Post by Shelley » Sat Feb 11, 2006 1:12 am

Bobinwales wrote: Knock off to me means to steal. A knocked off dress would either have been shoplifted (or similar), or just the design had been stolen and reproduced.
Agreed. I think I've heard the expression "knock over" to mean stealing, like "Hey Bugsy, hows about you an' me go out an' knock over the corner drugstore?"
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knockoff / knock off

Post by elizabethm » Tue Mar 07, 2006 3:38 pm

2 uses i am acquainted with are, as mentioned previously, to reduce the price, as in "i could knock off a couple of dollars for cash, mate.", and to finish work, "isn't it about time to knock off?".
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Post by Spearmint » Tue Mar 07, 2006 3:43 pm

I have heard the expression, "to knock someone off." It means to kill them. Also, "Knock it off!!!" - "Quit it!!!"
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knockoff / knock off

Post by tony h » Tue Mar 21, 2006 2:45 pm

We use the phrase knock-up to mean to mean a rude fabrication ie something which is put together with only care for efficacy rather than craftsmanship. Knock-off (within the general context being discussed) means to make a passable copy. A knocker-upper is someone who was employed as an alarm clock to knock on the windows of workers to make sure they were awake.
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