A line from the movie Mud (2012) goes:

(Matthew McConaughey's character): All right, Ellis. Can you climb that trunk, choke this off that limb? Tie it in a bowline knot, you know it?

The meaning is clear: Ellis is asked to climb up the tree and hang a rope from a branch with one end tied to it. I guess this usage is related to the sense of "to strangle", but it still seems a different usage that I don't recognize and can't find a dictionary entry to back up.

The movie is set in the Texas-Arkansas border. Is this usage regional/dialectal?

  • It's "choke off". But I find the usage strange too, as you say. In choke this off what is "this"? If it is the rope, that does not seem to make sense based on the definitions of "choke sth off". – AIQ Mar 30 '20 at 18:36
  • That's not the line from the English script. MUD: Ellis, can you climb up that trunk and get these hung? ELLIS: Yeah. MUD: Take a foot of line and tie 'em off with a bowline knot. You know it? – ColleenV Mar 30 '20 at 18:55
  • @ColleenVpartedways Could you cite a source? I have checked two subtitle versions plus the original one embedded in the Amazon Prime video. All three point to "choke". I would put up a link to a popular subtitle site, but those sites are in a gray area legally speaking. – Eddie Kal Mar 30 '20 at 18:58
  • @ColleenVpartedways Since you haven't responded to my request for a source, I went ahead and found your version here, labeled clearly as "shooting script". Well, we got several things definitely worth noting: third party scripts could be from any source and any stage of the shooting. For all we know, it could be an early version before substantial character/plot changes. It is more often than not the final cinematic product deviates from the script. Actors go off it all the time. Not the same thing as subtitles (intended to be actual words uttered) – Eddie Kal Mar 31 '20 at 2:13
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    @ColleenVpartedways I would say that "shooting scripts" are actually far more notorious for deviating from the finished product than captions are (particularly movie captions, which are usually pretty good). Eddie certainly could edit the question and add the additional research, but I don't see that it's really necessary as it's not actually that relevant. Assuming that Eddie was actually watching the movie in the first place (and presumably listening to the audio too), I would be inclined to believe their ears (without research) over some unsourced internet script resource anyway... – Foogod Mar 31 '20 at 17:31

I have not personally ever heard this before either. I suspect it is intended to be a regional dialect, and as was noted in the comments, that isn't even actually in the original shooting script, which suggests that it may have been a last-minute addition for color, or even an ad-lib.

I believe you are correct in the meaning of "tying a rope". It may come from the idea of tying a rope around something in order to constrict it ("choke it off"), or it's also possible it derives from the idea of a "choke knot", aka "strangle knot" (and thus "to choke" may have come to be used over time by some people to refer to just tying knots in general).

All of those are just guesses, though. In any case, this is definitely not something that's in common usage, so it's probably not worth worrying about in that much detail, particularly since you were able to correctly understand the meaning in context.

  • I think "choke knot" might've nailed it. I don't really know my knots, but it seems a strangle knot is not very dissimilar to a bowline? – Eddie Kal Mar 31 '20 at 17:47
  • I'm not sure the knots are that similar, really, except that they are both knots that can be used to quickly tie off the end of a rope to something (you can look up both at that site I linked to to compare). I could, however, see the name of one knot coming to be used more generally to refer to any knot used for that sort of purpose, though (similarly to the way some people use "Coke" to refer to all cola drinks regardless of brand, etc).. – Foogod Mar 31 '20 at 17:52

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