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Chockablock Is Fun to Say and Has Interesting Origins

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Jennifer, an elementary-school teacher in Tallahassee, Florida, loves saying the term chockablock, meaning “closely packed together,” and wonders about its etymology. Chock can refer to a kind of wedge used to hold something in place, and chockablock is the point in a block-and-tackle pulley system where the wooden blocks that contain pulleys on a rope are pulled in contact with each other, so that they can move no farther. Sailors also call this situation two-block or block-and-block, but by the 19th century, the term chockablock had come ashore and taken on the meaning of “very full.” For a good illustration of this condition, check out The Overlook Illustrated Dictionary of Nautical Terms by Graham Blackburn. This is part of a complete episode.

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