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I was watching the movie "Taxi Driver", which is an okay movie. However its dialogue is just annoying because it's just laden with slang and expressions of all types including some pretty uncommon ones.

So I have this situation right in the beginning of the movie, in which Travis (M.C) is applying to a taxi driver job, and a part of the dialogue in the sequence goes as follows:

3 00:02:33,528 --> 00:02:35,737 So, what do you wanna hack for, Bickle?

4 00:02:35,989 --> 00:02:37,406 I can't sleep nights.

5 00:02:37,657 --> 00:02:41,368

  • There's porno theaters for that.
  • Yeah, I know. I tried that.

6 00:02:46,124 --> 00:02:47,666 So, what do you do now?

7 00:02:47,917 --> 00:02:51,753 Now? Ride around nights mostly. Subways, buses.

8 00:02:52,005 --> 00:02:54,882 Figure I'm gonna do that, I might as well get paid for it.

9 00:02:55,091 --> 00:02:57,426 You wanna work uptown? South Bronx, Harlem?

10 00:02:57,635 --> 00:02:59,344 I'll work anytime, anywhere.

11 00:02:59,554 --> 00:03:01,013 Will you work Jewish holidays?

12 00:03:01,181 --> 00:03:02,931 Anytime, anywhere.

13 00:03:03,099 --> 00:03:05,559 All right. Let me see your chauffeur's license.

14 00:03:08,146 --> 00:03:10,606

  • How's your driving record?
  • It's clean.

15 00:03:10,857 --> 00:03:12,983 It's real clean, like my conscience.

16 00:03:13,193 --> 00:03:16,987 You gonna break my chops? I got enough trouble with guys like you.

17 00:03:17,197 --> 00:03:20,574 If you're gonna break my chops, you can take it on the arches.

18 00:03:20,742 --> 00:03:23,160 Sorry, sir, I didn't mean that.

Now, what the heck is that supposed to mean? I googled around and even some New Yorkers can't say what these are supposed to mean. I also found an interesting discussion about these at word reference forums, but however convincing some explanations are, they just can't agree with one another on what these mean.

EDIT: Here's the scene of this dialogue in the movie. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DjgINxorEas

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    On the one hand it's clear from context that he means "You gonna be a smartass?" and "you can leave". I suspect that the first is related to "bust (someone's) chops" meaning to give them a hard time and the second implies "you can walk out of here" (using the arches of your feet). On the other hand, I have no evidence for either possibility.
    – Hellion
    Commented Jan 14, 2020 at 20:17
  • I've always assumed that "bust ones chops" implies striking them in the jaw with fists. But of course this has become figurative/metaphorical several times over.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Feb 13, 2020 at 22:37
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    Can you indicate the speaker in the dialog? It's hard to follow.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Sep 13, 2023 at 13:57
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    @StuartF well, it's this scene of the movie: youtube.com/watch?v=DjgINxorEas
    – Otter
    Commented Oct 2, 2023 at 18:07
  • bust one's chops just means to hassle someone. Give them a hard time. It is not physical at all.
    – Lambie
    Commented Oct 2, 2023 at 18:23

3 Answers 3

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Peter J is correct as to the ultimate meaning, but the specifics are what make these expressions interesting.

To "take it on the arches" means to leave, specifically

To depart, especially on foot.
Wiktionary

Wiktionary further explains that the expression is "a reference to fallen arches that result from too much walking." It's an insult, suggesting that the person addressed is probably too much of a deadbeat to afford any other mode of transportation.

"Break my chops" is the more interesting of the two, since it is an admixture of two expressions: break my balls and bust my chops. Here it really favors the "break my balls" side, which means;

  1. vulgar slang To tease one; to give one a hard time.
    TFD Online

To "bust (one's) chops" usually means

  1. (acting upon oneself) To exert a significant amount of energy or work very hard to do, accomplish, or complete something.
    TFD Online

Clearly the taxi dispatcher is not complaining about Travis Bickle exerting a significant amount of energy to accomplish something. What he's doing is mixing his expressions, which he does wonderfully in the way people actually speak in real life much of the time, and which is also what makes the dialogue in this film seem so real.

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"You gonna break my chops?" means "Are you going to bother me about that?" or, sometimes, "Because I did something wrong, are you now going to lecture me about why I should not have done something wrong?"

"You can take it on the arches." is basically saying that person can just leave the taxi.

So the full expression would be more commonly spoken as: "If you're going to lecture me about it, you can just leave."

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  • @Peter thanks for the reply. I don't think "if you're going to lecture about it" makes a good candidate, even though I got the gist of what you meant, that doesn't really fit in the conversation's context IMO. I'll try to provide a larger excerpt of it though, that might help answering it better.
    – Otter
    Commented Jan 14, 2020 at 20:53
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    @EzequielBarbosa From the caption you provided, it's the equivalent of saying "If you're going to feed me bullshit, you can just leave."
    – Peter J
    Commented Jan 14, 2020 at 20:56
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    Do you have any ideas about why the terms 'break', 'chops', 'arches' are used? Do they refer to something in particular? Are they nonsense words? Or something in between?
    – Mitch
    Commented Jan 14, 2020 at 20:58
  • @Peter ok, got it. Thanks.
    – Otter
    Commented Jan 14, 2020 at 22:08
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    You understand that "clean, like my conscience" is an irritating comment? Commented Feb 13, 2020 at 22:11
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"If you're gonna break my chops, you can take it on the arches."

The context alone should make it obvious, but he's saying if you're going to give me a hard time, you can get out of here. It's like saying if you're going to bust my balls, you can get the fuck out of here.

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    Some corroborating evidence is required for an answer.
    – Greybeard
    Commented Sep 13, 2023 at 14:17

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