Knuckle sandwich

The expression knuckle sandwich is an idiom with an origin that is generally ascribed to American movies of the 1930s. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions such as beat around the bush, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, chin up, ankle biter, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. We will examine the meaning of the idiom knuckle sandwich where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

A knuckle sandwich is a punch in the mouth with a fist. The idea is that the “sandwich” is the hand. The origin of the expression knuckle sandwich is uncertain, but many experts trace the term to American movies in the early twentieth century featuring tough street children or small-time gangsters. The phrase is often rendered as “I ought to give you a knuckle sandwich,” meaning the listener deserves a punch in the mouth. The idiom is sometimes rendered as a question: “Do you want a knuckle sandwich?” This may be considered a warning to back off whatever course of action the listener is taking, under threat of violence.


Almost to a person, Bakker’s guests are a motley parade of pastors, biblical scholars and authors, all convinced that President Donald Trump is America’s last chance for a refill, and that people who criticize him are asking for a divine knuckle sandwich with a side of lightning bolt. (The Augusta Chronicle)

Taylor told the Daily News Ma gave her a knuckle sandwich when explained how she “defended” Ma’s stepdaughter Dejanae from an abusive man who was beating her up. (The New York Daily News)

Yeah, Nancy Elanor Hutchens was a tough kid and if she knew I printed her middle name in this article, she would likely feed me a knuckle sandwich for lunch. (The Daily Progress)

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