Knock one over with a feather and knock one down with a feather are two versions of an idiom. An idiom is a commonly used word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech like an often-used metaphor have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words or other parts of speech common in American slang or British slang, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as hit the sack, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, back to the drawing board, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, because they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker; it is helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, colloquial terms, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the common idiom knock one over with a feather and knock one down with a feather, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.
Knock one over with a feather and knock one down with a feather denote surprise, shock, or astonishment. The expressions knock one over with a feather and knock one down with a feather describe the fact that one is so overcome, even the small amount of pressure expended by the weight of a feather could cause that person to collapse. The phrases knock one over with a feather and knock one down with a feather came into use in the latter-1700s in the United States. According to Google Ngram, the knock one down with a feather version is slightly more popular than the knock one over with a feather version, though they are fairly evenly matched.
Knock me down with a feather – I did not see that one coming. (Southern Star)
As for those lockdown-lifting measures from Boris that pious Sturgeon used for maximum media impact, including a farcical suggestion from her party to introduce a police border between Scotland and England — knock me down with a feather! — she’s only gone and followed suit a week later. (The Sun)
“You could knock me over with a feather,” Pulis has since said about his former player’s transformation. (Forbes)
“Well color me surprised and knock me over with a feather.” (Vanity Fair)