I'm wondering what's the meaning of the following phrase:

Bennett took a poke at the President's refusal to sign the bill.

I've found some explanations of "to take a poke at", but still they don't seem to me to be the case for the above mentioned sentence. They just don't fit the structure, so the sentence makes no sense. Thank you in advance.

  • 1
    Can you post the explanations that don't work so we don't have to duplicate your work? And tell why they don't make sense, so we don't post more that make no sense in the same way?
    – jejorda2
    Feb 1, 2016 at 19:34
  • Mocked/denigrated would be my guess
    – Vérace
    Feb 1, 2016 at 19:39
  • "Poked fun", ie, mocked.
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 2, 2016 at 1:13

2 Answers 2


The phrase sounds like it rises from back-country North American colloquialism. As commenter Verace notes, it means to make a disparaging appraisal, quite possibly in a humorous vein.

Its probable etymology is pugilistic: an attack on a statement or person (e.g., "Mrs. Clinton struck back at at Mr. Trump today.") Since a "poke" is a small, pointed blow, such as might be delivered at the point of a finger, the rhetorical diminution of the attack might serve as a mildly ironic understatement in service to humor.

The Dictionary of American Regional English might help to pin the origin down more specifically. My sense is that it's more mid-Atlantic or northern in origin, if only because "poke" is often a noun, meaning a sack or satchel, in parts of the American South.


To understand the idiom "take a poke at" think of the difference between "taking a swing at" someone versus just poking them. A full swing is meant to knock them down, to hurt them. Where a poke (or a jab) is typically just meant to provoke or irritate the target.

The usage "Bennett took a poke at the President's refusal to sign the bill" sounds rather archaic. Today we might say simply "Bennett made fun of the President's refusal..."

Hope this helps!

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