Dukes (put up your)

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4 comments on this post.
  1. COREY:

    I have always thought it came from the “Duke” John Wayne. He was always known for being able to fight in his movies. Just a thought.

  2. Dave Hendricks:

    The phrase “Put up your Dukes”, may have come from the age of Kings and Queens. As Kingdoms went through the land gathering taxes and many of the lower class revolted the idea of paying taxes and getting nothing for it. The kingdom’s would send Nobles and Knights, but Dukes would calm the pheseants and solve the issues. Thus, “Put up your Dukes” would settle the conflicts.

    Also, Kings would spar or gesture each other in high class conflict about each other including rumor’s and scandle. When it got to the point something had to be done, Kings would “Put up their Dukes” to resolve issues, real or unreal.

    For what it is worth, this is what I was told growing up.

  3. MarkB:

    It’s hard to imagine for me that American carnival workers of the 19th century would particularly care about Romany language to the point where they’d pick it up. Possible, but seems a major stretch. I’d file this one under ‘unknown.’

  4. JSG:

    Although impossible to disprove without solid proof of a rival theory, the rhyming slang explanation seems a bit wishful. Forks for fingers does NOT connect naturally to closed fists for boxing as one would expect for rhyming slang. Indeed, we’d expect the word fist or punch to have evolved into some colourful rhyming term in their own right instead. People don’t box with open fork-like fingers so it makes no sense.

    I always presumed it originated from the (French) word deux, as in “put up your two fists” similar to the idea of the duel as combat between two persons who duke it out. Each boxer uses two(deux) fists as weapons rather than bladed swords or a single pistol.

    The Romany word “dookin” also connects back to a hand or palm meaning instead of a fist and seems even more fanciful than the Cockney derivation. The provided backing for a Duke of York etymology is fine only as far as connecting to “forks” standing for fingers or hand but not fists in any real sense.

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