Sunday, September 25, 2016

In the Clink

Adam asked about a phrase that now sounds a bit old fashioned, “When we were kids,” he wrote, “we’d say that so-and-so’s father was in the clink, meaning in jail.” Sounds like he grew up in a tough neighborhood.

There’s some uncertainty about the origin. One school of thought says that clink is onomatopoeia, the sound of a cell door slamming shut. I would suggest that clink is too soft a sound for that. Cell doors clank or clang shut; cocktail glasses clink. A refinement says that it might be the sound a prisoner’s chains make, but again, that’s a bit too delicate.

Others believe that clink derives from the name of an actual jail. It was located in Southwark, England, and somewhat surprisingly, it was owned by the bishop of Winchester. The thought is that the slang word for jail evolved as The Clink was genericised and applied to any prison.

Another explanation is that clink is a variation of clench, to secure firmly or to hold tightly in one’s grasp.

Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to and clicking on Listen Now. You’ll also find about a month’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.


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