Sometimes you never know what you might have to explain in an English conversation class when it comes to explaining some new vocabulary or expression.
What we might take for granted, in terms of the meaning of the usage of a particular term in English as a native speaker, can wreak havoc in an English classroom for students just trying to speak the language the best that they can. Sometimes it can be a little interesting when you have to explain a particular word or expression—one that we use all the time, but just never really gave much thought to how you would teach it, or the ways that it could be used.
Today the word was knock. You know, knock on the door? I hear you knocking, Dave Edmunds and knock three times on the ceiling Dawn and knock, knock, who’s there? That knock. Well, the students all had the knack for that knock, comprehension-wise, but what got them was this sentence in a story they were reading: “Agatha knocked the drink out of Robert’s hands.”
“Did she hit him?” a student asked.
“No, she knocked the drink out of his hands,” I explained, “you know she hit his hand and the drink fell.”
“So, she knocked him out.”
“She bumped his hand,” I explained and then demonstrated to the class how a person might “knock” something out of another person’s hands.
I could understand the confusion with this word, especially when one would think about other words that used “knock” in them. In another class I had taught my students knockoff as well as knock it off but they didn’t press me in explaining these expressions in any more detail.
After class, I was a little curious about knock and thought I would do a little online research at the Online Etymology Dictionary:
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 American English, where the phrase means “get a woman pregnant” (1813), possibly ult. from knock “to copulate with” (1598; cf. slang knocking-shop “brothel,” 1860).
It is really interesting where and when words have come into the English language. I was particularly amused by word “knocker” which reminded me of a scene from Young Frankenstein. In the scene, Dr. Fronkensteen (Gene Wilder), Igor (Marty Feldman), and Inga (Teri Garr) have just arrived at Castle Frankenstein where Igor bangs on the door with these huge “knockers” just as Dr. Fronkensteen is lifting Inga, whose ample bosom is quite noticeable, out of a wagon.
“What knockers,” says Dr. Fronkensteen as he looks at the door.
“Oh, thank you doctor,” Inga replies.