- Naval Term. A colloquialism referring to sailors who are in the Machinists Mate rating (job category). More generally, it may be used to refer to members of any naval rating who work in mechanical jobs. In very common use in the U.S. Navy today, the origin of the term is based on the assumption that those of lower intelligence will chose these jobs, and therefore are analogous to the apes who drag their knuckles while walking. The term is no longer taken to be seriously offensive.
First sailor: So what rating is Jones? Second sailor, replying, He's a 2nd Class knuckle-dragger. (Meaning that Jones is a Machinists Mate 2nd Class)
Dictionary of american slang with examples. .
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