The federal Minimum wage in the US is $7.25 per hour. Ten states have higher minimum wages with Rhode Island clocking in 50 cents higher at $7.75.

What is the meaning of clocking? Why not use "closing"?

3 Answers 3


I think the existing answers are potentially misleading. It's true that to clock in originally gained currency in the 40s in respect of workers recording the time of starting work (often, in a factory, where they might also clock on, and clock out or clock off when they finished work).

But in recent decades, the specific phrasal verb clock in has acquired another sense. It's now often used to mean record / achieve a "score" in a competition (where OP's "minimum wage comparison" can be seen as a "competition").

This usage is particularly favoured where the "score" values are time-based, but OP's example is by no means uncommon. Another very similar idiom is clock up - to reach a particular number or amount.

Note that the more common phrasing here would be with Rhode Island clocking in at 50 cents higher. In such contexts, to clock in is usually followed by at [the actual recorded value], but in this specific case that would be clumsy - since the actual value is expressed as 50 cents higher at $7.75, we'd have two occurrences of the same preposition in undesirably close proximity.

Having said all that, I agree with other answers/comments making the point that OP's cited usage could (but doesn't have to) be seen as a punning allusion to the factory timekeeping origin of the expression.

Finally, I'll just say that if the writer had used clocking up instead of in, he wouldn't have had to think about whether to follow it with at (which is rarely used after up). But then his pun would be diluted.

  • I never thought of "clocking in at" as related to time cards. I thought it was related to timing someone in a race, and thus was a measure of achievement.
    – Wayne
    Feb 13, 2014 at 20:22
  • @Wayne: Hah! So you at least didn't need my answer to set the record straight regarding current usage! Technically speaking you're actually right - OED's first citation for To accomplish or attain (a certain time or speed) in a race; to register (a time, distance, etc.) on a clock or dial. is 1892. It's not until 1914 that they cite an instance of With in, on (off, out): to register one's arrival at (or departure from) work by means of a mechanical device combined with a clock. Then there's the slang clock: (orig. US) watch or observe; look at, notice first recorded in 1942. Feb 13, 2014 at 22:09

Think of it as "clocking in", not just "clocking", and I believe you'd understand why.

Though you can write "closing in" instead of "clocking in" and the meaning will still be roughly the same, using "clocking in" makes the line much more interesting, in my opinion.

Workers usually need to clock in and clock out of their work. The basic sense of clock is to measure or record something (though it's usually about the speed). By playing with words, the sentence jumps off the page and puts me into the context of labors and minimum wages instantly.

Here are the definitions for "clock in" and "clock out" from the Free Dictionary:

clock in - register one's arrival at work
clock out - register one's departure from work

  • Indeed, I think the writer was being punny, as you indicate.
    – J.R.
    Feb 13, 2014 at 10:53
  • @J.R. What is being punny? Feb 13, 2014 at 13:56
  • Let me answer this on behalf on J.R. To me, the phrase "clocking in" is there just to make the sentence sound more interesting. The two sentences can be understood perfectly even after "clocking in" has been removed from the second sentence. The meaning (which I though you might already knew), is that the minimum wage in the US is $7.25/hour. There are 10 states that have higher minimum wages, and Rhode Island is one of them. If you worked there (Rhode Island), you will get paid at least $7.75/hour. Feb 13, 2014 at 14:08
  • 1
    @AwQiruiGuo - Punny is simply slang for "forming a pun" (usually an amusing one). The word is a portmanteau of pun and funny
    – J.R.
    Feb 14, 2014 at 2:19

The federal Minimum wage in the US is $7.25 per hour. Ten states have higher minimum wages with Rhode Island clocking in 50 cents higher at $7.75.

It's the time you spent working in a factory or office. If you say you're on clock, that means you're in working hours.

  • Thanks, does that somehow mean I work(on clock) here for one hour and will get $7.75? Feb 13, 2014 at 13:58

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .