Saturday, August 25, 2012


Drives them wild every damn time. She knows what they want. And that other one stretching over him with the clocks on his socks sipping that violet syrupy nonsense.
"Sirens" in James Joyce, Ulysses

It was about eleven o'clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills. I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark little clocks on them. 
Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep (first sentence)

"A man, it  must be presumed, without clocks on his socks.

Garry Wills on Russell Lynes in The Kennedy Imprisonment
She hesitated for a second, then kicked her shoes off, hopping on one foot then the other until she was down to blue socks with little clocks on them.
Penny McCall, The Bliss Factor  

Clocks are a design on the side of the sock thought to resemble clocks, but in reality are most often a square with a dot in the middle. The elements of the design are usually different colors.

 --Ask Andy About Clothes Forum

I could swear I saw a reference to "clocks on his socks" in Proust somewhere but I can't put my finger on it.

Update:  Wait a minute, here it is--from Within a Budding Grove:
A dark green thread harmonised, in the stuff of his trousers, with the clock on his socks, with a refinement which betrayed the vivacity of a taste that was everywhere else conquered, to which this single concession had been made out of tolerance for such a weakness, while a spot of red on his necktie was imperceptible, like a liberty which one dares not take.
That's in volume 2, Wihtin a Budding Grove; part two, Place Names: The Place. recounting "Marcel's" first meeting with the Baron de Charlus.   So Scott-Moncreiff.  The Kilmartin revision has "the stripe of his socks," and why Kilmartin felt he had to abandon the clock I do not know.  I went scrounging for the French original \but I don't find it in house and I am too indolent to try to suss it out on line  Nah, I can't help myself; here's the French, with the mystery word in bold face:
Un filet de vert sombre s'harmonisait dans le tissu du pantalon à la rayure des chaussettes avec un raffinement qui décelait la vivacité d'un goût maté partout ailleurs et à qui cette seule concession avait été faite par tolérance, tandis qu'une tache rouge sur la cravate était imperceptible comme une liberté qu'on n'ose prendre.
For "rayure," my dictionaries give "stripe"--so also Google translate.  Must be some deeper cultural foundation to the clocks thing. 

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