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Clean someone’s clock

  • To clean someone’s clock is an American idiom that was first seen at the turn of the twentieth century. We will look at the meaning of the term clean someone’s clock, where it comes from and some examples of its use in a few sentences.

    To clean someone’s clock may mean to give someone a severe thrashing, to beat someone up. Clean someone’s clock might also simply mean to best someone soundly in a contest. While the oldest known use of clean someone’s clock goes back to 1908, the popularity of this idiom has steadily risen since the 1940s. The idiom comes from the  figurative meanings of two different words. The first figurative meaning is the use of the word clean to mean to vanquish someone, to give someone a drubbing. The second figurative meaning is the use of the word clock to indicate a person’s face. Related phrases are cleans someone’s clock, cleaned someone’s clock, cleaning someone’s clock, getting one’s clock cleaned.

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    Examples

    After last Tuesday’s primaries, Clinton has a clear majority of pledged delegates and 3.7 million more popular votes, and she cleaned his clock in California, where he spent weeks campaigning. (The Sacramento Bee)

    The news coverage of the third night of Donald Trump’s GOP convention was marked—predictably and perhaps justifiably—by the chorus of boos that descended upon Sen. Ted Cruz when he spoke from the stage and defiantly refused to endorse the celebrity mogul who cleaned his clock (and insulted his wife and father) during the primary campaign. (Mother Jones Magazine)

    It turned out he’d been sent home early because a classmate had dissed Gordie, and Marty “turned around and cleaned his clock,” Murray said. (The Pueblo Chieftan)

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