Chock A Block

Meanings of “Chock A Block”

The informal British phrase “chock a block” means to cram something or people tightly or put block by block in a way that they do not have a space to move.

Origin of “Chock A Block”

The phrase “chock a block” seems to have originated from nautical terminology. It was first used in Morte Arthur as “Charottez chokkefulle charegyde with golde,” while later it was used in An Universal Dictionary of the Marine in 1769 written by William Falconer. He has explained it as, “Chock, a sort of wedge used to confine a cask or other weighty body. when the ship is in motion.”

Examples in Literature

Example #1

The Story of the Lady A by Richard Dey

There was no thought, when we came here, of staying.
We only planned to work on the boat and rest.
Would you believe she was once “the green machine”?

We picked her up for a song in Port of Spain.
She’s been let go but we were looking for
A small freighter and se was just the thing.
We put her back on her feet and painted her
The color of a maple leaf in May.
And turned her into something we could use
To make a living and, at the same time,
Live aboard – no small trick. We used to joke;
We spent more time with the boat than with each other;
Nights, we’d picked the paint of each other’s skin.

But when the lady A came steaming in,
Heads turned. We always had the flags flying,
The hold chock-a-block and we were seldom late.

The above stanza tells the story of Lady A. They picked her from the Port of Spain for a song. She, then, became their friend during the journey on their ship. He means that whenever she used to come to sing a song on the boat, nobody used to be late and the dock was jam-packed. The meaning of the phrase used with hyphens is still the same that there was no room for movement in that rush.

Example #2

Bridegroom Dick by Herman Melville

Our trim sailing-master, to time the high-noon,
That thingumbob sextant perplexing eyes and
Squinting at the sun, or twigging o’ the moon;
Then, touching his cap to Old Chock-a-Block
Commanding the quarter-deck,–’Sir, twelve

The above stanzas are divided into two segments. The first part sheds light on the sailing master and his movements, while the second part sheds light on the natural things and behavior of the sailing master. The phrase has been used in the second verse of the second stanza where it shows that there were many old masters packed full to whom he used to salute.

Example #3

Staircase At the University by Morrissey

Staircase at the university
She threw herself down and her head split three ways

Crammin’, jammin’, pack-em-in rammin’
Chock-a-block box, power study, polish up

And if it breaks your heart then don’t come running to me

Crammin’, jammin’, pack-em-in rammin’
Chock-a-block box, power study, polish up
And if it breaks your legs then don’t come running to me

The above song is about how the singer’s beloved has died in the jam-packed university staircases. The second stanza occurs twice, making it a refrain of the lyric in which it has been repeated how it was jam-packed.

 Example #4

What’s Tha Up To This Time?: More Memories of a Sheffield Bobby by Martyn Johnson

I was still chuckling about it as I was walking up through the city center. Sheffield was alive with people, the streets and the shops were chock-a-block. It was about two weeks before Christmas and I think everybody in Sheffield was shopping that day. It was freezing cold and an old man at that side of the road was selling hot chestnuts from his brazier. The Salvation Army band was playing and the atmosphere was fantastic, it was a pleasure to be alive.

This passage tells about Sheffield how it stays jam-packed with the people with shops so closed to each other that there was no space. In spite of the crowd, the writer had a wonderful experience listening to music.

Example in Sentences

Example #1: “Most birthday parties at Wilsons’ house are chock a block. They have a huge family and no one misses a good dinner party.”

Example #2:  “We wish the place was chock a block with a rush, but there were a handful of people on the first day of the exhibit.”

Example #3: “The school ground will turn into a chock a block if all the students are allowed at once.”

Example #4: “Everything there was chock a block that nobody could even have time to sit down. Therefore, most of the invitees were standing in the bar. Some were looking for a room to relax, but nobody found anything.”

Example #5: “Sometimes he feels that he is going to feel chock a block. In fact, he is suffering from some type of phobia that whenever people gather, he feels the same.”