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What is the origin of the phrase "beat to the socks"? I was only able to find this link, which doesn't really explain its origin.

Jack Kerouac used to claim that the term "Beat Generation" came from the expression "beat to the socks". The other day, someone played me an old recording by a singer, pianist, songwriter named Fats Waller. His song had a line that went "when they play those swing songs it beats me to my socks". The Phrase Finder

I am not sure if this is the right forum to ask the question. If not, please let me know.

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  • Do you want the source of the expression, or the meaning?
    – gotube
    Sep 12, 2022 at 23:35

1 Answer 1

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The material (which you should have copied, not linked to) says:

Jack Kerouac used to claim that the term "Beat Generation" came from the expression "beat to the socks". The other day, someone played me an old recording by a singer, pianist, songwriter named Fats Waller. His song had a line that went "when they play those swing songs it beats me to my socks".

Very often, when people are excited or strongly affected by emotion (or drugs), they may experience a tingling feeling in various parts of their body. This is a response by the nervous system. Quite often the feeling will extend as far as the extremities (the fingers and toes) and it is quite common to see expressions where someone will say they are affected -- literally or figuratively - completely - 'down to their toes', or 'toe' as in this song about a drug -

White light messin' up my brain,
White light is gonna drive me insane
White light tickles me down to my toe,

White Light/White Heat (The Velvet Underground)

Governor PINCHOT said when the acceptance of his proposed terms by the miners as well as by the operators was assured: "I am pleased clean down to my toes"

(New York Times)

Fats Waller was saying the feeling he experienced from hearing swing songs was strong or profound, so that it thoroughly affected or struck (beat) him emotionally.

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  • Thank you so very much for your detailed explanations!
    – Maurice
    Sep 16, 2022 at 3:03

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