Sling your hook

Example in use: “Hey! What are you doing over there? Are you trying to steal that chocolate?!? If you don’t sling your hook right away, I’m going to call the police!”

Meaning: to go away, to move on

Possible German equivalent: die Fliege machen

Possible origin: The most popular theory for the root of this idiom is in Britain’s long nautical, seafaring past. Hook is another word for anchor and this would be “slung” to the fixing to stop it swinging freely by the rocking of the ship. Therefore, literally speaking, to “sling your hook” was to raise your anchor into its fixed position and sail away.

Dictionaries from the late 19th century list this idiom alongside the form “to take one’s hook”, which has the same literal meaning of leaving and was often a rather impolite form of expressing an urgency for someone to go. The Daily News in 1897 quotes, “If you don’t sling yer hook this minute, here goes a pewter pot at yer head.”

A second theory for the origin of this expression is related to the mining industry. The routine of miners hanging their clothes on a hook which was lifted to the ceiling during the day and then after their shift, taking their clothes down again off the hook and then leaving for home is another possible origin for the meaning. There does not seem to be much support for this idea but it is certainly possible according to some sources.

There is some evidence of an earlier expression, “to sling one’s daniel”, having exactly the same meaning but no one can say what or who “Daniel” is. We hope that this form of the idiom does not literally mean “to throw Daniel” but luckily, it seems more likely to be a very local dialect whose meaning has now been lost!

Hook / hʊk

Welcome again to our weekly series that hopes to go behind the scenes of some rather typical English expressions.