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What Does "Blow Me Down" Mean?

Someone completely surprised might say, "Well, blow me down."
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  • Last Modified Date: 07 September 2014
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"Blow me down" is an English idiom that is often used when someone is surprised or stunned by a particular occurrence. The meaning of the idiom derives from the fact that the astonishment of the event is so great that the person has figuratively been knocked to the ground by it. This particular phrase gets its origins from old sailing jargon and other similar expressions that emanate from the word "blow." It is closely related to the phrase, "knock me down with a feather," which suggests that a person is so surprised that he or she can be knocked over by the lightest object imaginable.

Many English-speaking people use certain phrases that have a colorful and evocative meaning far removed from the literal meaning of the included words. These phrases are known as idioms, and they gain their meaning when people in the culture use them to describe similar sets of circumstances. Some of these idioms are used to express extreme surprise or astonishment.

Basically, individuals use this phrase when they have either witnessed or heard something out of the ordinary or different from what might be expected. The idea is that the unexpected news is so surprising that it knocks them over in the figurative sense. As an example, someone might say, "Well, blow me down, I can't believe they're getting married."

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Some people might be able to guess that the origins of this phrase come from sailing circles. The centuries-old sea shanty "Blow the Man Down" has survived to modern times, and the American cartoon character Popeye, who was also a sailor, often used the phrase whenever he was put in some difficult predicament by his adversary, Bluto. Since winds were such an important part of a sailor's life, many phrases emanated from that setting that have some variation of the word "blow" involved.

There are times when people who use this idiom add a prepositional phrase at the end which includes the lightest possible object that can be imagined. In most cases, this object is a feather. For example, someone might say, "Well, you can knock me down with a feather if he shows up here today after all he's done." The meaning of this sentence is that the speaker would be totally surprised if the person to which he is referring arrives.

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anon924982
Post 9

"Blow the man down" is clearly a reference to a knockdown, which occurs when a sailboat or sailing ship is hit so hard by a gust of wind that it is knocked down onto its beam ends, that is to say, it has heeled over so sharply that the mast (s) are in the water. I'm an old salt who crossed the Pacific under sail.

anon349467
Post 8

I always saw "Well blow me down" as a censored version of "Well I'll be damned."

Bakersdozen
Post 7

@Oceana - That's hilarious. I've never heard anyone substitute the word feather before but I may start doing it now!

A popular variation on this idiomatic phrase is 'knock me down with a feather'. This suggests to me the person would be rooted to the spot in surprise, though not why a feather would have the weight to topple them over!

Speechie
Post 6

This phrase seemed so familiar to me but I could not figure out why until the end of the article - I had heard it as a child from Popeye!

All the memories came flooding back with Popeye and his spinach eating ways and the unique laugh he had when the article made the connection for me.

I would love to see Popeye brought back out of semi-retirement like they did with other characters such as the Smurfs or the Transformers.

Either way this is a unique expression and I like how @oceana's father used it with phrases such as blow me down with a string, blow me down with a noodle, blow me down with a m&m, blow me down with... okay I could go on, but I will spare the readers...

Oceana
Post 5

My father was a water-loving man. He served in the Navy, and after he left the service, he still spent a lot of time out on the water in our sailboat. He picked up the ‘blow me down’ phrase during his service, and he continued to use it all his life.

He like to mix up the words he added to the end of the phrase to catch us by surprise and keep it fresh. When I told him that I made an A on my final exam, he said, “Blow me down with a whisker!” When I told him I got into the college of my choice, he said, “Blow me down with a carrot peel!”

I loved anticipating what his next phrase would be. I never tired of hearing him say it, because he varied it so often.

cloudel
Post 4

My dad used to say this whenever he was shocked by something bad. If I heard him say it, I knew that he had just received shocking news. He never used it in lighthearted situations.

He got his variation of the phrase from his father, who used to always say, “Well, blow me down while you whistle!” I thought this was kind of a funny thing to say when you had just gotten bad news, because it would take people by surprise and even make them chuckle at times.

When Dad got a phone call from him mother and I heard him say the ‘blow me down’ phrase, I knew that something bad must have happened. Sure enough, their house had burned down.

lighth0se33
Post 3

@orangey03 - This phrase is used in the Northeast a lot, also. I live in this region near the sea, and I hear fisherman say it often.

I work in a pub just off the water, and I serve a lot of seafaring people. Anytime that one of them says something that amazes the other, I hear the phrase, “Well, blow me down!”

I have heard several variations of it, such as, “Blow me down with lace!” and, “Blow me down with an eyelash!” People like to add their own take on this common idiom.

orangey03
Post 2

I always thought this was mostly a Southern expression, but come to find out, it is used all over the country. My grandmother used to say it, and I thought it was unique to the region until I went to the Northwest and heard a native there use the phrase.

I used to brag to my grandmother about the size of the fish I caught. I would stretch out my hands to show her how huge it was, and she would say, “Well, blow me down with a tissue!”

I couldn’t help but giggle when she said it. The mental picture of someone knocking her over with a tissue made me laugh every time.

LisaLou
Post 1

This phrase is familiar to me because I have heard my dad use it often. Whenever something happens that he is surprised at or never thought would see happen, it is not uncommon for him to say, "Well, blow me down".

I have never given much thought to the origins of the saying as it seems like I have heard it for most of my life. I find it interesting to know that it comes from sailing jargon.

I'm not sure where my dad picked up the phrase since I have never heard my grandparents use it. I'm always interested in how a particular saying got its meaning and will have to share this information with my dad.

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