knock into a cocked hat
- to someone or something being knocked or hit out of shape like such a hat, or a person having a cocked hat forced on to their head; or
- to a person knocking down all but three pins in a game of ninepins, or to the similar game called “cocked hat” in which only three pins are set up in a triangle, although these may simply be allusions to the shape of a tricorn. It has been pointed out that evidence linking these games to the verb is lacking.
- (Received Pronunciation) IPA(key): /ˈnɒk ˌɪntuː ə ˌkɒkt ˈhæt/
- (General American) IPA(key): /ˈnɑk ˌɪntu ə ˌkɑkt ˈhæt/
Audio (GA) (file)
- Hyphenation: knock in‧to a cocked hat
- (transitive, originally US, colloquial, dated) To beat up or seriously injure (a person); to badly damage (a thing).
- Synonym: beat into a cocked hat
- 1830 November 13, “A rencounter. From the Connersville, Ind. Political Clarion.”, in Frederick-Town Herald, volume XXIX, number 27, Fredericktown, Md.: […] William Ogden Niles, OCLC 9672044, page 4, column 3:
- Tho' I'll tell ye what, stranger, I'm none your mealy mouthed fellows, and I'm little jubus [dubious] that you're one of them there [John Quincy] Adams men. And I've just seen the time that I'd knock sich a fellow into a cocked hat as quick as name it. But [Andrew] Jackson is safe enough and he's jist the chickin what's able; Adams is done for til he's made over.
- 1832, [James Kirke Paulding], “A Voyage, a Story, and a Land Adventure”, in Westward Ho! […], volume I, New York, N.Y.: […] J[ames] & J[ohn] Harper, […], OCLC 70613583, page 123:
- […] I jumped up and told Tom a short horse was soon curried, and I'd knock him into a cocked-hat if he said another word. And that broke up the conversation.
- 1833 June 27, Charles Gordon Greene, editor, The Boston Morning Post, volume IV, number 90, Boston, Mass.: Charles Gordon Greene, OCLC 2258525, page 2, column 3:
- A N. York paper giving the details of a riot which occurred in that city, says that "a person was struck with a brick-bat, and knocked into a wheel-barrow." We have before heard of persons being "knocked into a grease spot," and of others who had been threatened with being "knocked into a cocked hat," but this is the first time we ever heard of any one being "knocked into a wheel barrow."
- 1840 February, Edgar A[llan] Poe, “Peter Pendulum, the Business Man”, in William E[vans] Burton and Edgar Allan Poe, editors, Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine and American Monthly Review, volume VI, number II, Philadelphia, Pa.: William E. Burton, […], OCLC 2258790, page 87:
- [A] fortunate accident […] happened to me when I was a very little boy. A good-hearted old Irish nurse (whom I shall not forget in my will) took me up one day by the heels, when I was making more noise than was necessary, and, swinging me round two or three times, d——d my eyes for "a skreeking little spalpeen," and then knocked my head into a cocked hat against the bed-post. This, I say, decided my fate, and made my fortune.
- 1855 September, [Lewis Gaylord Clark], “Editor’s Table”, in Lewis Gaylord Clark, editor, The Knickerbocker, or New-York Monthly Magazine, volume XLVI, number 3, New York, N.Y.: Samuel Hueston, […], OCLC 1650862, page 328:
- A German astronomer says, that in twenty millions of years the earth will be destroyed by a comet! People may doubt and jeer at the idea: but wait till the time comes, and you’ll see that prophet, as the comet whisks along, knocking the earth into a ‘cocked hat,’ hanging by its tail, exclaiming, ‘I told you so, I told you so!’ But who will hear him?
- 1904 July 9 and 16, Gilbert K[eith] Chesterton, “The Eccentric Seclusion of the Old Lady”, in The Club of Queer Trades, New York, N.Y.; London: Harper & Brothers Publishers, published April 1905, OCLC 10768944, page 247:
- Basil sprang up with dancing eyes, and with three blows like battering-rams knocked the footman into a cocked hat.
- (transitive, chiefly Britain, colloquial, figuratively) To completely demolish, nullify, overthrow, or otherwise defeat (a person; an argument, idea, or proposition; or a thing).
- Synonym: beat into a cocked hat
- All the original ideas we had were knocked into a cocked hat by the latest survey.
- 1853, Vidi [pseudonym], chapter XII, in Mr. Frank, the Underground Mail-agent, Philadelphia, Pa.: Lippincott, Grambo & Co., OCLC 850628, page 146:
- "That's a fact," said the Kentuckian, "and knocks all his fine arguments into a cocked hat. Jist a minute ago I tho't slavery wall all right, and now I see it's all wrong, and has no kinder sort o' foundation.["]
- 1884 October 25, “Never Write on Your Cuffs”, in Tid-bits: From All Sources […], volume I, number 10, New York, N.Y.: John W. Lovell Company, OCLC 8755486, page 146, column 2:
- "The fact is," said Jim Keene, the great New York rival to Jay Gould, "that no matter how clever and thorough a man's system of stock operating may be, there is always occurring some little unforeseen and apparently insignificant circumstance that is forever knocking the best laid-out plans into a cocked hat."
- 1888 January 26, “Lord Brassey on imperial defence”, in The Pall Mall Gazette: An Evening Newspaper and Review, volume XLVII, number 7133, London: […] Richard Lambert, […], OCLC 18090232, page 9, column 1:
- A frigate of the modern type would knock a fort armed with obsolete guns into a cocked hat.
- 1935, Richard Evelyn Byrd Jr., “The Lunatic Fringe”, in Discovery: The Story of the Second Byrd Antarctic Expedition, paperback edition, Lanham, Md.; London: Rowman & Littlefield, published 2015, →ISBN, page 195:
- And you guess the end of the world will probably look like that, […] with all things at last in equilibrium, the winds quiet, the sea frozen, the sky composed, and the earth in glacial quietude. Or so you fancy. Then along comes a walloping blizzard and knocks such night dreaming into a cocked hat.
- 1936 April, H[enry] L[ouis] Mencken, “The Future of the Language”, in The American Language: An Inquiry into the Development of English in the United States, 4th edition, New York, N.Y.: Alfred A[braham] Knopf, OCLC 1199075656, page 607:
- In its early forms it [English] was a highly inflected tongue – indeed, it was more inflected than modern German, and almost as much so as Russian. […] The impact of the [Norman] Conquest knocked this elaborate grammatical structure into a cocked hat.
- 1971 August, Charles F. Treat, “The Great Metric Crusade (1914–1933)”, in A History of the Metric System Controversy in the United States: U.S. Metric Study Interim Report […] (National Bureau of Standards Special Publication; 345-10), Washington, D.C.: National Bureau of Standards, United States Department of Commerce, OCLC 2302332, page 195:
- Unlike the supporters of metric adoption, the opponents did not have to wage a campaign to accomplish their goal. All they had to do was knock into a cocked hat the claims advanced by the "reformers."
- 2011, Larry Karp, chapter 1, in A Perilous Conception, Scottsdale, Ariz.: Poisoned Pen Press, →ISBN, page 4:
- I thought I knew what to do about it, and had figured to sit down with Giselle after the conference to get her on board. But that idea had been knocked into a cocked hat along with the conference.
- 2012, W. Brewster Willcox, “A Two-horse Horserace”, in The Power of Paradox, [Bloomington, Ind.]: Xlibris, →ISBN, part II (The Search for the Higgs and Why It Matters), pages 27–28:
- If every particle has a corresponding anti-particle, as the Standard Model asserts, the question arises, Where has all the antimatter gone? Saying that's just the way it happens to be, doesn't satisfy many scientists. And it knocks into a cocked hat the whole Standard Model, which to this point, he [Martin Beech] assures us, has been "highly successful in describing the observed particle zoo."
to beat up or seriously injure (a person); to badly damage (a thing)
to completely demolish, nullify, overthrow, or otherwise defeat
- ^ E[benezer] Cobham Brewer, “Knocked into a Cocked Hat”, in Dictionary of Phrase and Fable […], new edition, London; Paris: Cassell and Company, 1895, OCLC 867351699, page 716, column 2: “A cocked-hat, folded into a chapeau bras [bicorn], is crushed out of all shape.”
- ^ See, for example, [William Alexander Caruthers], “V. Chevillere to B. Randolph”, in The Kentuckian in New-York. Or, The Adventures of Three Southeners. […], volume I, New York, N.Y.: Harper & Brothers, […], 1834, OCLC 694111337, page 220:
- Now I wish my head may be knocked into a cocked-hat, if a man had told this to me of the Yorkers in old Kentuck, if I wouldn't have thought he was spinnin long yarns; […]
- Pascal Tréguer, “Meaning and Origin of ‘to Knock into a Cocked Hat’”, in Word Histories, retrieved 16 February 2021, archived from the original on 27 September 2020.
- ^ E[benezer] Cobham Brewer, “Cocked Hat”, in Dictionary of Phrase and Fable […], new edition, London; Paris: Cassell and Company, 1895, OCLC 867351699, page 270, column 1.
- ^ Gary Martin, “Knocked into a cocked hat”, in The Phrase Finder, 1997–.
- “to knock into a cocked hat, phrase” under “cocked hat, n.”, in OED Online , Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, September 2019.
- “knock something into a cocked hat, phrase” under “cocked hat, n.”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–present.
- “knock sth into a cocked hat” in the Cambridge English Dictionary, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- “knock/beat somebody/something into a cocked hat” in Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, Longman.
- “knock someone/something into a cocked hat” (UK) in Macmillan English Dictionary.
- “into a cocked hat”, in Merriam–Webster Online Dictionary.