Ever been hit on the ear? It sounds sort of like this word. (The word may even look like a promised clobbering: the c, holding the l as a club, sneaking up on the two b‘s from behind to beat them…) But of course there are many other words that sound sort of like this word, too: blubber, slobber, clubber, clapboard (pronounced the “old” way), lobster, glibber… Certainly the opening consonant makes some difference: the s in slobber is sloppy while the c in clobber is more percussive. It’s that opening stop that keeps this word from sounding flabby. And the spread of the voicelessness onto the l as we say it could be said to give a sense of motion. Naturally, it sounds rather akin to club, too. Perhaps that’s why, somewhere apparently in the 1940s, this word started being used to refer to beating, defeating, et cetera (bomber pilots seem to have used it first). Before that time clobber had been a word more associated with shoes and clothing: the verb referred to patching up and cobbling, and subsequently to adding enamelled decoration; it in turn may have come from a noun clobber that meant a paste used by cobblers to fill cracks in shoes. Another noun clobber was slang for clothes. All of these showed up in the 19th century, and the clothing one, at least, can still be seen rarely today. And lexicographers aren’t sure where any of them came from. Not the current sense either. Hm!
Be a patron!Support Sesquiotica and get extra premium content and goodies. Starts as low as $1 a month! Find out more and subscribe on Patreon.com
I am for hireI earn my living as an independent editor, writer, and educator. Find out more and contact me at jamesharbeck.com.
Buy the T-shirt (or coffee mug or hip flask)
Wear it proudly:
I operate on a NEED-TO-KNOW basis. I need to know EVERYTHING.
Buy it at cafepress.ca/sesquiphernalia
12 Gifts for Writers ebook – free download
Buy my books
Buy my books on Lulu.com:
- Confessions of a Word Lush (paperback)
- Confessions of a Word Lush (ebook)
- Songs of Love and Grammar (paperback)
- Songs of Love and Grammar (ebook)
- 12 Gifts for Writers (print edition)
You can also get them on Amazon.com. Please note that I make less than half as much per book if you buy them there, however.
Word Tasting Notes Google groupGet just the word tasting notes daily by email – join the Google Word Tasting Notes group.
- Coffice Space
- from the bookshelf
- language and linguistics
- new old words
- Poetry Minute and a Half
- pronunciation tips
- The Week
- Word Country
- word pictures
- word portraits
- word reviews
- word sommelier
- word tasting notes