I'm reading Lawrence Block's memoir, in which he mentions about volunteer travel opportunities offered by Earthwatch. He explains that for a not-too-steep fee, one might join an expedition in aid of some environmental goal, such as to save the endangered red pandas. Then he says:

Lynne and I weren't sufficiently high-minded to sign up for one of their trips. We’d be eager to inoculate villagers in the Cameroun against dengue fever instead of, say, knocking back on a cruise of the South Pacific.

What does "knocking back on a cruise" mean here? I tried to look up the dictionary for "knock", "knock back", or "knock back on". But their definitions don't seem to fit this context.

1 Answer 1


This is the only definition that makes sense to me:

To drink an alcoholic beverage swiftly or often. (Wiktionary)

It's usually transitive, as in "knock back a few drinks" so I'm a little surprised by the phrasing here. Still, I think the author is trying to describe a luxury activity they'd be more willing to do: knocking back a few drinks on a cruise ship.

My only other guess would be that they meant something like "kicking back":

(especially North American English) to relax Kick back and enjoy the summer.
(Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary)

That would make sense in context, too. The meaning would be similar: relaxing on a cruise ship.

But he's a professional writer, and it's probably best to assume he used the phrase he intended, so I'm going with "knock back (a few drinks)".

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