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Vocabulary help, please: Knicks?

(5 Posts)
MsAmerica Mon 23-Nov-15 23:54:03

Excuse my ignorance. I'm reading The Razor's Edge and came across:

"Each [little girl] gave me a polite little knick as she took my hand."
and
"...gave him their polite little knicks."

So what's a knick? An online search yielded no results. From the context...I dunno...maybe some kind of demi-curtsey?

TheHouseOnTheLane Tue 24-Nov-15 00:25:43

I've tried to find something about it by looking at Somerset Maugham's heritage in the hope that it's a colloquealism from where he grew up but had not a lot of luck.

He spent the first 8 years of his life in France and then moved to Kent...he was very well educated...a gentleman....so it's unlikely that it's some "common slang" but not impossible.

Looking at how "knick" appears in other contexts..."Knick Knock" "Knick Knack" "Knick Knack Paddy Whack" I can only guess that it is a very old word which may have different etymologies. So it could mean one thing in one place and another somewhere else.

I also thought it must mean a sort of curtsey and wondered if that might come from something to do with knickers! Knickers comes from knickerbockers of course...so if you "give a knick" I suppose you might show the edge of your knickerbockers as your raise your skirt!

prokupatuskrakedatus Wed 25-Nov-15 16:18:47

Perhabs this may help:

In German (northern regions) a 'Knicks' is a small not very deep curtsey little girls used to do when politely greeting teachers, elderly relatives etc. (I grew up doing this).

So like TheHoseOnTheLane suggests, it seems to be an old word - being used in both langauges - related to things beeing bent (geknickt). But I couldn't find a proper ethmology either.

TheHouseOnTheLane Wed 02-Dec-15 07:20:33

Ooh! Well done Prokup!! He grew up in France and then England so I expect his language varied...he must have been exposed to German!

MsAmerica Fri 11-Dec-15 23:07:44

Aha! Thank you, pro.

I was thinking of the Noel Streatfeild books where sometimes one of the girls would hold out the edges of her knickers to curtsey.

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