History

A different sort of knocking-up

In British political circles, knocking-up is the activity of calling on voters to remind them to vote. Done usually on polling day, knocking-up sometimes happens earlier because postal votes land well before polling day. But it never involves pea shooters.

However, there is a very different sort of knocking-up which does involve them. It’s the old-fashioned kind:

As the BBC has reported:

Until the 1970s in some areas, many workers were woken by the sound of a tap at their bedroom window. On the street outside, walking to their next customer’s house, would be a figure wielding a long stick.

The “knocker upper” was a common sight in Britain, particularly in the northern mill towns, where people worked shifts, or in London where dockers kept unusual hours, ruled as they were by the inconstant tides…

While the standard implement was a long fishing rod-like stick, other methods were employed, such as soft hammers, rattles and even pea shooters.

But who woke the knocker uppers? A tongue-twister from the time tackled this conundrum:

We had a knocker-up, and our knocker-up had a knocker-up

And our knocker-up’s knocker-up didn’t knock our knocker up

So our knocker-up didn’t knock us up

‘Cos he’s not up.

Such knocking-up has even left a trace on buildings:

One response to “A different sort of knocking-up”

  1. It also has a quite different meaning in America, which must flabbergast Americans hearing claims like “I’ve knocked up 200 voters today”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

All comments and data you submit with them will be handled in line with the privacy and moderation policies.