After reading the Wikipedia article I was wondering about a possible connection between these two idioms.

Quoted from Wikipedia: Chip on shoulder

This idiom traces its roots back to a custom that was known in North America since the early 19th century. The New York newspaper Long Island Telegraph reported on 20 May 1830 "when two churlish boys were determined to fight, a chip [of wood] would be placed on the shoulder of one, and the other demanded to knock it off at his peril".

A similar notion is mentioned in the issue of the Onondaga Standard of Syracuse, New York on 8 December 1830: "'He waylay me', said I, 'the mean sneaking fellow — I am only afraid that he will sue me for damages. Oh! if I only could get him to knock a chip off my shoulder, and so get round the law, I would give him one of the soundest thrashings he ever had'."

Some time later in 1855, the phrase "chip on his shoulder" appeared in the Weekly Oregonian, stating "Leland, in his last issue, struts out with a chip on his shoulder, and dares Bush to knock it off".

This is not related to the question: What are the origins for the phrases "Knock it off" and "Cut it out"? I am enquiring about the connection between two distinct idioms, one being:

To have a chip on one's shoulder

The other being:

Knock it off

It looks to me like they might both originate from the same source!

  • 1
    Does this answer your question? What are the origins for the phrases "Knock it off" and "Cut it out"?
    – Laurel
    Commented May 20, 2023 at 12:28
  • 2
    Well, the obvious thing is if you have something on your shoulder, I could knock it off. But that is not the idiom for Stop it!: Knock it off. So, no connection.
    – Lambie
    Commented May 21, 2023 at 22:20
  • @Laurel That question's answer says "knock it off" dates to 1834, but the asker just found a usage of it from 1830.
    – alphabet
    Commented May 22, 2023 at 2:24
  • The 1830 references are a literal use of "knock it off" not the metaphorical one - I'm sure people were talking about knocking things off other things well before then (in 17th century or before), but it's unconnected with the metaphorical meaning "stop it".
    – Stuart F
    Commented May 22, 2023 at 11:41
  • It doesn't help that the approved answer to the other question only gives a partial account of the origin of "knock it off", which may be partly connected to auctioneers but probably relates to the earlier idiom "knock off" meaning "do quickly, finish quickly" which the OED has at 1817, or the (originally 17th century) sense "to leave off one's work" (still used in the UK in phrases like "knock off for the day").
    – Stuart F
    Commented May 22, 2023 at 11:51


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