Put a Sock In It – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Would you like to tell someone to be quiet or stop talking? The phrase ‘put a sock in it’ is a common figurative saying in the English language that can be used to say just that. This post unpacks the meaning, origin, and  correct use of the saying.

Meaning

The phrase ‘put a sock in it’ is a common figurative saying in the English language.

When someone uses the phrase ‘put a sock in it’ the saying is used as a usually informal way to tell someone to shut up or be quiet.

‘Put a sock in it’ is a phrase that can be used as a statement or a response, though it might also be used as a question that asks of someone to be quiet.

The phrase ‘put a sock in it’ is most common as an insult, though can also be said with implications of sarcasm and humor when it gets used.

When someone uses the negative form of the phrase to say that someone ‘did not put a sock in it’ then the phrase implies the opposite meaning, or that someone could not (or would not) be quiet.

The phrase can also be used to say ‘putting a sock in it’ depending on what is being said.

Context can usually clear from the conversation, or given.

Example Usage

“Nobody cares to know what you like on your pizza. Why don’t you just put a sock in it and order something?”

“If you can’t stand the volume at the bar, you’re going to have to put a sock in it or go somewhere else. It’s not your personal sound system.”

“Put a sock in it about my mother. You don’t want to know what she went through as a young man in the war.”

“When it comes to issues of the heart, maybe you should put a sock in it. Not everyone wants to know about your love life.”

Origin

According to most online language resources, the phrase ‘put a sock in it’ first originated in the early 1900s, and might have already been in common use by the 1930s.

The phrase comes from the popular use of gramophones, some of which did not have fine volume controls as most modern sound systems today would have. When someone wanted to mute a recording, they had to literally put a sock in the end of the tube.

The phrase might have originally been a literal saying, but the figurative meaning has become the more popular meaning since the 1930s.

The phrase has continued in use to modern times, with the saying common in conversation and social media.

The phrase ‘put a sock in it’ was first listed on the website Urban Dictionary from 2005, even though earlier use of the phrase has been documented.

Phrases Similar to Put a Sock In It

  • Can it

Phrases Opposite to Put a Sock In It

  • Sing like a songbird

What is the Correct Saying?

  • Put a sock in it

Ways People May Say Put a Sock In It Incorrectly

There are several ways in which someone can use the phrase ‘put a sock in it’ in the wrong way, or misunderstand the meaning of the saying.

It is not related to the saying ‘sock it to me’ and has a different meaning, but it can be confused with the phrase ‘put a sock in it’ that is used to tell someone to shut up.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Put a Sock In It

When someone says the phrase ‘put a sock in it’, the saying can be used to mean that someone should shut up or be quiet.

The phrase ‘put a sock in it’ can be used in a friendly context, though most often is used as an insult.

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