08 August 2016

Getting Knocked Up in Antarctica.

Several nights ago I attended a very interesting talk about how we humans have managed, over the millenia, to measure and record time. I discovered that at one stage after the industrial revolution workers were required to be at work on time and they could be docked half a days pay for being late. Because the poor could not afford timepieces, people were employed to wake them in the morning. This was done by knocking on their windows - or in the case of those who slept upstairs, shooting dried peas at their upstairs bedroom windows - the term used for this practise was "knocking up" and later it came to be used for just waking someone up. I learned the expression from my father who would often refer to being "knocked up" at a certain time in the morning.

I'm not sure how it came about, but the term also came to be used for making a woman pregnant. My mind boggles about how the term came to have this other meaning and I did wonder that, if the "knocker up" 'knocked' too early, the double entendre, "early rise", could have resulted in the impregnation in those days preceding birth control.

A ?Knocked Up Lady 'Knocker Up' Takes Aim at an Upper Window

Back in 1960 near the Beardmore Glacier in Antarctica I became stranded at a primitive weather station with a few Americans manning the outpost. One night I left the comfort of their Nissen hut  for my polar tent and asked a RNZAF person there to 'knock me up ' at six the next morning because I had a radio call the next morning. The following morning I was interrogated by the Americans who only knew of the impregnation definition of the phrase. They were a bit sceptical of my explanation of the term!

Crew at Beardmore Depot

In the photo above, from left, Peter Rule(one of the rescued RNZAF airmen), 'Carp' USA (whose father was killed in the WW2 attack on Pearl Harbour), Athol Boag (RNZAF who was asked to 'knock me up), two from USA, 'Con' who had the interest in the differences between American and English phrases.

There is a very interesting discussion of the phrase in the linked discussion here. And the interesting story of the RNZAF rescue is recorded here and here. It also is in one of my previous blogs - and presently featured above - about the antarctic rescue.


  1. Hi Barry. I am Athol Boags grand daughter. I was doing some reseaech and found this. Thank you for sharing this. Would you hav want more pictures you have of pop to share?

    1. Hello Ambereyes,
      Yes I may have one more photo including Athol but after Xmas - I've just seen your comment - sorry about the delay.
      Cheers BarrySmith blchsmiths@gmail.com