throw for a loop / knock for a loop / knocked for six

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throw for a loop / knock for a loop / knocked for six

Post by Ken Greenwald » Mon Jun 30, 2008 2:51 am

I read the following in last week’s issue of The Week:
<2008 “An Affair to Remember: She was 82. He was 95. They both had dementia. When they started having sex . . . relatives and caregivers were thrown for a loop.”—The Week, 27 June, page 44>
THROW FOR A LOOP and its equal KNOCK FOR A LOOP are familiar expressions in the U.S. but appear to be less common elsewhere. However, exactly what the LOOP signifies was not clear me – I guess I had never given it any thought.

KNOCK/THROW FOR A LOOP North American:

1) Literally, to strike a person a hard blow, as with the fist, causing them to lose their balance and fall; to clobber. He knocked me for a loop with a blow to the head, but I got up and fought back

2) Figuratively,

a) devastate, defeat We were knocked for a loop by the attack and were out of action for the duration.

b) To disorient someone by saying or doing something shocking or unexpected, to unsettle severely, disrupt calm and confidence, discombobulate; surprise, astonish, upset, bewilder, stun, catch off guard. His opponent’s unconventional debating style threw him for a loop until he finally figured out to deal with it..

c) To make a strong favorable impression on someone; dazzle. I was knocked for a loop by the beauty of her prose.

d) To do very well on; ace, cream. She was worried how she would do on her math test, but she knocked it for a loop.

Three sources I checked provided, with certitude, varying explanations of the expression’s origin. The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms claims that the ‘loop’ “alludes to the comic-strip image of a person pushed hard enough to roll over in the shape of a loop.” Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang attributes it to one “figuratively knocked ‘head-over-heels.’” Urdang’s Picturesque Expressions says that “The loop [
derives from the aeronautical term for the mid-air maneuver of an airplane. To knock someone for a loop is to hit that person hard enough to make them do a somersault. The feeling of dizziness and disorientation carried over into the more common figurative use.” The Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, however, is less certain and offers that the “‘loop’ may have referred to the loop maneuver made by an airplane, but this is only a guess.” So, takes your pick!
<1921 “Another story told is of a dog who attacked the brute [[supposed panther on loose]] and was KNOCKED FOR A LOOP of fifty feet for her efforts.”—New Castle News (Pennsylvania), 27 July, page 6>

<1922 “‘Kelley, the next time that guy comes back to my desk I am going to KNOCK HIM FOR A LOOP! exclaimed the Hotel Stenographer. ‘Did he neglect to flirt with you?’ asked the House Detective.”—Logansport Pharos-Tribune (Indiana), 17 March, page 4>

<1925 “[[New York City]] workers . . . felt themselves ‘KNOCKED FOR A LOOP’ on learning yesterday that . . . Thornton, one of their own, . . . had been suspended [[by their new superintendent, a retired Army general]] on a charge that smacks of strict Army discipline.”— Boston Daily Globe, 25 November, page >

<1927 “Chicago Steals Reno’s Fame in Giving Divorces . . .Chicago, big robust, corn-fed gal of a city that she is, walks up to spindling-legged little Miss Reno, and KNOCKS HER FOR A LOOP as she grabs Reno’s fame from off her pallid brow.”—Lima News (Ohio), 27 September, page 16>

<1933 “. . . before you could bat an eye he was THROWN FOR A LOOP and a 10-yard loss.”—Port Arthur News (Texas), 13 December, page 1>

<1935 “The English of the Comic Cartoons . . . Terms for ‘to deal a blow’: . . . bump, to pop, to smack for a loop, to KNOCK FOR A LOOP, . . .”—American Speech, Vol. 10, No. 1, February, page 52>

<1936 “Something had happened which had KNOCKED even the imperturbable Wibley FOR A LOOP.”—Pawnshop Murder by J. G. Brandon, v. page 46>

<1952 “The story of [[the play]] ‘Fire Sale’ centers on a slick sales team that sells fire engines to small towns through grafting officials. When an honest sale is to be made, the high-pressure boys are THROWN FOR A LOOP.”—New York Times, 9 January, page 26>

<1965 “The dust’s effect on the sensor . . . really THREW US FOR A LOOP.”—Time Magazine, 23 July, page 36>

<1969 “That memorandum THREW ME FOR A LOOP.”—Intercom Conspiracy by Eric Ambler

<1973 “That little charade of hers had KNOCKED HIM FOR A LOOP.”—Deadly Discretion, Diana Ramsey, page 153>

<1973 “Anne Baxter spent 30 hours cooped up in [a] hotel suite under [an assumed] name to make sure her appearance was a surprise to Bette Davis . . . and it was. Miss Davis boomed, ‘Well, I’ve certainly been THROWN FOR A LOOP.’”—Chicago Tribune, 15 May, page B2>

<1986 “Was I ever KNOCKED FOR A LOOP when my loan application was denied because of bad credit.”—Chicago Sun-Times, 21 October>

<1995 “On second down, Elway completed a pass to wide receiver Ed McCaffrey for 19 yards. McCaffrey was KNOCKED FOR A LOOP when safety James Washington tackled him. ‘I remember Rod making a great catch, but I don't remember much before or after . . .’”—Washington Post, 18 September>

<2000 “So it's come to this: Our nation's leader will be determined by the same people who are THROWN FOR A LOOP whenever the grocery bagger asks, ‘Paper or plastic?’ They are the people now known in political circles as the Undecideds, or Swing Voters.”—Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minnesota), 28 October>

<2004 “This time around, he's a nerdy risk analyst who carefully plans the perfect life, only to be KNOCKED FOR A LOOP when his bride (Debra Messing) dumps him on their honeymoon.”—The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Wisconsin), 16 January>

<2008 “The booming market for financial products that comply with Islamic law was THROWN FOR A LOOP recently by criticism from a leading scholar . . .”—Associated Press, 11 January>

<2008 “The stars of TV's ‘Grey's Anatomy’ and ‘Private Practice’ are coming to the rescue of writers and crew KNOCKED FOR A LOOP by the writers strike.”—Daily News (Los Angeles, California), 28 February>
The expressions also have several variations, none of which I ever heard of:

KNOCK/THROW FOR A GOAL/ROW

KNOCK FOR A ROW OF ASHCANS / MILK CANS / G.I. CANS / NAUGHTS / CHINESE PAGODAS / ACADEMY AWARDS / TALL RED TOTEM POLES

(Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford Dictionary of Idioms, Historical Dictionary of American Slang, Chapman’s Dictionary of American Slang, Dictionary of American Slang By Wentworth & Flexner, and archived sources)
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Ken G – June 29, 2008
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Re: throw for a loop / knock for a loop

Post by Tony Farg » Wed Jul 02, 2008 1:25 pm

Never heard of it in the UK, Ken, but here we might say "knocked for six" with sort-of the same meaning.
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Re: throw for a loop / knock for a loop

Post by Shelley » Thu Jul 10, 2008 9:06 pm

Tony, what does the "six" signify in knocked for six?
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Re: throw for a loop / knock for a loop

Post by trolley » Thu Jul 10, 2008 9:42 pm

I always imagined the "loop" was a circle. Hit so hard it did a complete somersault or back-flip. Ass over tea kettle.
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Re: throw for a loop / knock for a loop

Post by PhilHunt » Fri Jul 11, 2008 8:53 am

Shelley wrote:Tony, what does the "six" signify in knocked for six?
It's a cricket term I believe and the six signified the points you got. Not being a cricket fan I can't say I'm 100% sure though. As an idiom it means hitting something/one really hard or so it never returns.
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Re: throw for a loop / knock for a loop

Post by Bobinwales » Fri Jul 11, 2008 9:15 am

Shelley wrote:Tony, what does the "six" signify in knocked for six?
It is indeed a cricketing term. If the batsman hits the ball out of the playing area without it bouncing he gets 6 runs. If it bounces once or more he gets four.

"Points" Phil, are you sure that you were raised in England? I would have thought that even the Scots and Irish who are not exactly known for their cricketing prowess know that you score runs.
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Re: throw for a loop / knock for a loop

Post by Erik_Kowal » Fri Jul 11, 2008 10:16 am

Over the course of many centuries the Irish perfected not playing cricket with the English.
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Re: throw for a loop / knock for a loop

Post by PhilHunt » Fri Jul 11, 2008 11:05 am

Bobinwales wrote: "Points" Phil, are you sure that you were raised in England? I would have thought that even the Scots and Irish who are not exactly known for their cricketing prowess know that you score runs.
I would rather have my testicles removed with blunt knives than watch a cricket match. It's like a slow death in white. That's probably why I don't know.
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Re: throw for a loop / knock for a loop

Post by Bobinwales » Fri Jul 11, 2008 4:59 pm

Well, and you living in the hotbed of Italian cricket too!

Not very far from you, you will find a soccer club founded as Milan Cricket and Football Club. It has since changed its name to A C Milan . Not, you will notice, Milano.

But if you still insist on the blunt knife some friends of mine from Sicily will be happy to oblige.
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Re: throw for a loop / knock for a loop

Post by Liam - Galway » Fri Jul 11, 2008 6:18 pm

Must correct these slurs on Irish cricketing prowess!

As a life long fan of the game - well since the great West Indies team toured England in '76 - I have to remind you of the Irish attendance & performance at the last World Cup ( tho' sadly overshadowed by the death of Bob Woolmer)

And Erik, I presume you meant to say it was the English that didn't play cricket with us!
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Re: throw for a loop / knock for a loop

Post by Erik_Kowal » Fri Jul 11, 2008 6:36 pm

Sometimes what is true is not funny, and what is funny is not true.
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Re: throw for a loop / knock for a loop

Post by PhilHunt » Fri Jul 11, 2008 7:54 pm

Bobinwales wrote: Not very far from you, you will find a soccer club founded as Milan Cricket and Football Club. It has since changed its name to A C Milan . Not, you will notice, Milano.
I'm one of the few males in Italy who doesn't give a fig about football.
I think the reason why AC Milan is called as such is because it is owned by the anglophile Silvio Berlusconi and he'd change the name of his mother to sound more English if he thought it made him more popular with the American President.
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Re: throw for a loop / knock for a loop

Post by Tony Farg » Fri Jul 11, 2008 8:00 pm

Isn't it odd that a person can be an anglophile when there is no evidence that the favour is returned (except perhaps by certain retired persons).
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Re: throw for a loop / knock for a loop / knocked for six

Post by Ken Greenwald » Sat Jul 12, 2008 12:34 am

Bob, Has answered this one, but here it is with the official gore from the dictionaries, etc.:

SIX/SIXER: [1857] Anything that counts as six (Cricket. As six runs, especially scored by striking the ball clear over the boundary a hit for six runs at cricket).
<1857 “When you or Raggles hit a ball hard away for SIX, I am delighted.”—tom Brown’s School Days by Thomas Hughes, II. viii. page 392

<1870 “It is not difficult to hit SIXERS to leg.”—Routledge’s Every Boy’s Annual, page 452>

<1905 “Never before in an Eton and Harrow match have two ‘SIXERS’ been hit in succession.”—The Hill: A Romance of Friendship by H. A. Vachell, xii>

<1951 “A lusty hit for SIX gives many people intense pleasure . . . There were . . . many outstanding feats of SIX-hitting.”—All Round the Wicket by G. Brodribb, vi. page 39>

<1979 “The ball was hit for SIX . . . into the vicarage grounds.”—Daily Telegraph (London), 29 May, page 17/3>

<2002 “But two standout players . . . routinely turned googlies into SIXERS, which in baseball would mean they turned curve balls into home runs. . . . After Giovanny Palacio hit a SIXER off Lily Ibrahim, she bowled the next ball at his head. It was a classic American brushback pitch.”—New York Times, 5 May>

<2008 “Younis faced 117 balls and hit 11 fours and a huge SIXER in his brilliant knock..”—Hindustani Times (New Delhi, India), 3 July>
KNOCK FOR SIX: (most often KNOCKED FOR SIX):

1) Wrench from a state of composure, inconvenience gravely.

2)To defeat soundly, utterly overcome.

3) To astound, surprise stun, flabbergast, to take aback, gobsmack, amaze, shock, knock the socks off, knock the spots off.’

The expression in extended use may also apply to inanimate objects. The phrase derives from cricketing imagery where a ‘six’ or ‘sixer’ is a shot that clears the boundary].

Similarly,

TO HIT FOR SIX is to demolish an argument, scheme, etc., to vanquish; to deal a severe blow to.

TO GO FOR SIX [1940s and still in use]:

1) WWII R.A.F. slang for die, killed, or missing (see 1943 quote).

2) To be knocked down or knocked across a room

3) To be punished
<1902 “‘It KNOCKS ME FOR SIX’, is the statement we have about a bullet in the knee.”—Epistles of Atkins by J. Milne, vi. page 107>

<1934 “It's a crashing bore . .. to think of those dim cads KNOCKING US FOR SIX like this, but . . . it's no use getting strenuous about it.”—Panic Party by A. Berkeley, iv. page 69>

<1937 “Lawrence . . . was chiefly concerned to HIT swots and cads and foreigners FOR SIX.”—Times Literary Supplement (London), 1 May, page 343/4>

<1941 “John . .. hurled his Santuzza from him with such vigour that she WENT FOR SIX, landing in the wings on the far side of the stage.”—John McCormack by L. A. G. Strong, viii. page 129>

<1943 GONE FOR SIX, killed, missing.”—It’s a Piece of Cake: R.A.F. Slang Made Easy by C. H. Ward-Jackson, page 32>

<1949 “You're just like an angel yourself sitting there. You KNOCK ME FOR SIX, if I may borrow a sporting metaphor.”—in Plays of the Year 1949, I. 240, Ann Veronica by R. Gow, page 1>

<1955 “It is a song that KNOCKS FOR SIX the illusion . .. that little creatures probably know by instinct how to do their stuffs.”—The Times (London), 6 August, page 7/4>

<1957 “I had really hit her for a six and made her change her tune properly.”—God Boy (1958) by I. Cross, xiii. page 109>

<1961 “Mr. Sisam, the Secretary, HIT most of the questioners FOR SIX.”—Oxford Magazine, 15 June, page 413/1>

<1967 ‘I began to wonder if my massive and inexpert administration of chloroform had not HIT his liver—perhaps not inappropriately—FOR SIX.”—The Lancet, 1 July, page 41/1>

<1970 “He zooms down it, KNOCKS ‘EM FOR SIX, what a man!”—A Salute to the Great McCarthy by Barry Oakley, page 141>

<1972 “Unwilling to test the law for fear a jury might KNOCK his case FOR A SIXER.”—Flame, page 3>

<1973 “A glass of his home-made cider . . . KNOCKS YOU FOR SIX.”—Two & Two Make Five by B. Graeme, vi. page 58>

<2002 “Sir David Tweedie . . . is charged with sorting out an international accounting industry KNOCKED FOR SIX by America’s corporate scandals.”—The Guardian {London), 29 June>

<2004 “[You] may be KNOCKED FOR SIX to learn that for them English poetry is a triangular constellation made up of Charles Tomlinson, Geoffrey Hill and Roy Fisher.”—The Guardian (London), 17 April>

<2008 “The inaugural Indian Premier League reaches its climax today. . . Its progenitors have been bowled over by the dramatic events, the skeptics apparently KNOCKED FOR SIX.”—The Independent on Sunday (London), 1 June>
(Oxford English Dictionary, New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, Cassell's Dictionary of Slang, Encarta, and archived sources)
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Ken – July 11, 2008
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