There's a scene in Good Will Hunting where Will retorts, "what winds your clock?" to Robin Williams' character.

I had a hard time finding a meaning for this expression. So I put the question to you. What does this idiom mean, that is, "what winds your clock?"

Also, what's a good free online dictionary for looking up idioms like this one? What would you say is the best place to look? (Teach a man to fish!)

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  • 2
    Try a few. What winds your clock? What keeps you going? What makes you tick? What do you care about? – Xanne Mar 27 '17 at 9:10
  • What turns you on. – Hot Licks Mar 27 '17 at 12:26
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    For finding idioms nothing beats The Free Dictionary. Type a word then click where it says idiom idioms.thefreedictionary.com/clock If the phrase doesn't appear it's probably a dialectal expression or a nonce. – Mari-Lou A Mar 30 '17 at 8:21

This is a variant of a common expression. The one I have heard most commonly is "whatever floats your boat". It means whatever makes you happy, whatever you like doing.

The phrase "whatever floats your boat" originally referred to female sexual stimulation according to several internet sources. Whether there is any truth in this I cannot say, but I have heard it used by people who I am certain did not intend, or imagine, any such connotation or origin.

Yahoo gives some other alternatives.

Whatever flips your pancake.

Whatever melts your butter.

Whatever teeters your totter.

Whatever bakes your cake.

Whatever tickles your fancy.

Whatever razzles your berries.

Whatever milks your goat.

Whatever cocas your cola.

Whatever bastes your turkey.

Whatever tosses your salad.

Whatever lights your candle.

Whatever flies your flag.

Whatever pings your pong.

It is hard to look up these sort of idioms because there are so many possibilities. It is necessary to recognise the genre.


There is a little extra resonance in some old folk references to clockwork, where there is implied impropriety.

This is akin to it being a more arresting interjection to dismissively or mischievously riposte with "Whatever gets you through the night".

However, the reference in the question post is likely on a plane higher than such base allusions. This would be broadly similar to the distinction Mick Jagger made many years ago, to an interviewer who threw him what legal eagles would call a very leading question, as to whether he was finally getting any Satisfaction. Mick was helpful enough to ask the interviewer to clarify whether it was the philosophical or sexual variety she had in mind, making more explicit the implied theme in the hit number and quite probably in her question.

There is of course some added pathos in the fact that question was being posed to the character being portrayed by Williams, given that very gifted artist's personal travails and his very sad and untimely demise.

Ref e.g. The Old (origin reference) Clockwinder or a slight variation on the same theme

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