In S04E04 of Irish crime series Single-Handed two shady characters talk about gullible police officer they managed to take advantage of, not once but twice

A: Finbar's a fairly handy local resources, isn't he.

B: He wasn't born, he was knitted. Hum the right tune and he'll sing it.

A: I found his tune alright.

I am interested in the meaning and origin of an expression "He wasn't born, he was knitted."

  • 2
    BTW, google also found this expression in an Irish play Portia Coughlan by Marina Carr: "Senchil wasn't born, he was knitted on a wet Sunday afternoon. Feel safe when he's around because he's so fuckin' borin' nothin' ever happens." Feb 4, 2018 at 12:55
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    Excellent second clue. I think you should hold out for a little more research before accepting one of the answers offered so far. Feb 4, 2018 at 13:42
  • I have a vague memory of a fairy tale where a woman knitted herself a son that came to life, but I can't find it. Many folklore traditions have "golem" or Pinocchio type stories where inanimate dolls come to life. My feeling is that this is a reference to one of those, but I can't find any supporting evidence for it.
    – ColleenV
    Feb 4, 2018 at 13:50
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    It's entirely possible that this is just cool-sounding nonsense that the writer came up with. David Mamet is one screenwriter known for doing that.
    – jscs
    Feb 4, 2018 at 23:12

2 Answers 2


I interpret this to mean that he is as soft and pliable as a knitted toy (something like this). Just imagine taking these bunnies into your hands—a slight movement of your hands, and their extremities flap and turn wherever your fingers instruct them. You put them down, and they are passive and immobile. So, too, is this police officer.

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    Here is a source explictly using it to mean "weak willed" irishecho.com/2011/02/… It is apparently an Irish dialect expression.
    – James K
    Feb 4, 2018 at 13:46

I'm not 100% sure of the origin, but it seems to hearken back at least to the Book of Psalms in the Old Testament:

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.
(Psalm 139:13)

As for its meaning in your context, it means the person was custom-made for some particular purpose. In this case, the shady characters have an easier time conducting their illicit business thanks to the bumbling officer's gullibility.

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    Though I also jumped to the Bible verse, I don't think it's what's meant in this context. The wet Sunday afternoon doesn't help this interpretation either. Feb 4, 2018 at 13:36
  • From what I know of the psychology of criminals, they are mindful of a higher power in that they try not to cross it, in the sense that they might return stolen property if they find out that it belongs to a priest (although of course not in the sense of adhering to moral values). But they'd never think in terms of God actually lining things up for them to take advantage of. Devout Christians think this way; criminals don't. (irrrespective of whether run-of-the-mill criminals actually read the Bible; the "you've knit me" passage is far less known in popular culture than "writing on the wall)
    – user68912
    Feb 4, 2018 at 13:58
  • Seems like "knitted", especially in the context given, implies the man is a puppet, i.e. a knitted doll that you can make do whatever you wish.
    – Amadeus
    Feb 4, 2018 at 23:36

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