Learn English – What’s the meaning of the expressions “break the chops” and “take it on the arches”


I was watching the movie "Taxi Driver", which is an okay movie. However its dialogue is just annoying because it's just laden with slang and expressions of all types including some pretty uncommon ones.

So I have this situation right in the beginning of the movie, in which Travis (M.C) is applying to a taxi driver job, and a part of the dialogue in the sequence goes as follows:

3 00:02:33,528 –> 00:02:35,737 So, what do you wanna hack for,

4 00:02:35,989 –> 00:02:37,406 I can't sleep nights.

5 00:02:37,657 –> 00:02:41,368
– There's porno theaters for that.
– Yeah, I know. I tried that.

6 00:02:46,124 –> 00:02:47,666 So, what do you do now?

7 00:02:47,917 –> 00:02:51,753 Now? Ride around nights mostly.
Subways, buses.

8 00:02:52,005 –> 00:02:54,882 Figure I'm gonna do that, I might as
well get paid for it.

9 00:02:55,091 –> 00:02:57,426 You wanna work uptown? South Bronx,

10 00:02:57,635 –> 00:02:59,344 I'll work anytime, anywhere.

11 00:02:59,554 –> 00:03:01,013 Will you work Jewish holidays?

12 00:03:01,181 –> 00:03:02,931 Anytime, anywhere.

13 00:03:03,099 –> 00:03:05,559 All right. Let me see your
chauffeur's license.

14 00:03:08,146 –> 00:03:10,606
– How's your driving record?
– It's clean.

15 00:03:10,857 –> 00:03:12,983 It's real clean, like my conscience.

16 00:03:13,193 –> 00:03:16,987 You gonna break my chops? I got
enough trouble with guys like you.

17 00:03:17,197 –> 00:03:20,574 If you're gonna break my chops, you
can take it on the arches.

18 00:03:20,742 –> 00:03:23,160 Sorry, sir, I didn't mean that.

Now, what the heck is that supposed to mean? I googled around and even some New Yorkers can't say what these are supposed to mean. I also found an interesting discussion about these at word reference forums, but however convincing some explanations are, they just can't agree with one another on what these mean.

Best Answer

Peter J is correct as to the ultimate meaning, but the specifics are what make these expressions interesting.

To "take it on the arches" means to leave, specifically

To depart, especially on foot.

Wiktionary further explains that the expression is "a reference to fallen arches that result from too much walking." It's an insult, suggesting that the person addressed is probably too much of a deadbeat to afford any other mode of transportation.

"Break my chops" is the more interesting of the two, since it is an admixture of two expressions: break my balls and bust my chops. Here it really favors the "break my balls" side, which means;

  1. vulgar slang To tease one; to give one a hard time.
    TFD Online

To "bust (one's) chops" usually means

  1. (acting upon oneself) To exert a significant amount of energy or work very hard to do, accomplish, or complete something.
    TFD Online

Clearly the taxi dispatcher is not complaining about Travis Bickle exerting a significant amount of energy to accomplish something. What he's doing is mixing his expressions, which he does wonderfully in the way people actually speak in real life much of the time, and which is also what makes the dialogue in this film seem so real.