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PostSockdologizing, Fish Hooks, and the Lincoln Assassination (Edward Jajko, USA, 03/13/12 6:03 am)
In response to Nigel Jones (12 March), "sockdolagizing" may have been used in "Our American Cousin" in a sense derived from The Sockdolager, a patented clamping fishhook. So the reference in the play would not have to been to the lady's being a doozy of a mantrap, but to her being singularly grasping. A surefire laugh to an audience familiar with the product.
JE comments: I came across this reference to the Yankee Doodle or the Sockdolager, patented in 1846:
(Gosh, I knew nothing about antique fishing tackle! They have websites for everything.)
So the chronology is right for the fishing Sockdolager to have become part of the general lexicon by 1858, when the play was written in the UK. At first I thought the word had originated in the product, but sockdolager already connoted "cat's meow" by the time of the patent. We could claim something analogous for Doosy (associated with the Duesenberg automobile, but already in use when the car was first produced), and the Real McCoy (a lubricating cup for train engines, but the expression existed earlier).