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Posted by R. Berg on April 13, 2005

In Reply to: Re: A LOAD OF CODSWALLOP posted by Gary on April 13, 2005

: : : : I'm having difficulty remembering where I read this, but I was under the impression that codswallop referred to the stuffing that was used to artificially accentuate the contents a codpiece when it was worn by men with great panache during the 15th and 16th centuries. You could probably use the same expression for the socks that Nureyev used to make his tights look - well - so tight.
: : : : Its meaning - exaggerated pretences that have no significant substance.

: : :
: : : That's an interesting theory. The origin is uncertain though. See

: : I looked it up in the OED and it only appears in print in 1963. There is nothing known about its origin but it's probably unlikely that it goes all the way back to the era of cod pieces, otherwise there'd be some evidence. The piece Gary links to is interesting. I imagine it could have been in use before 1963, but probably not for several hundred years.

: Yes, it was a commonplace in my youth which, it has to be said, was 'before 1963'.

: Quite often the earliest citation of a phrase in print is quite recent and that's used as evidence against the phrase having any early origin. I almost hate to mention it but 'the whole nine yards' is one of those.

: What would be nice would be some indication of how long it takes for a phrase to get into print after it is commonly used in speech. These days I'd guess that's days rather than years. That can't have always have been the case though. I wonder if we could find some examples.

: As it hasn't been claimed yet, perhaps we could raid the piggy bank and use Bob's Whole Nine Yards Grand Prize money (which must be into double figures by now) for the winner of the Longest Time Between A Phrase Being Coined And It Appearing In Print competition.

How would we find the coinage date, though, without written evidence?

If a celebrity uses a phrase, it gets into print within hours. Phrases that become current in speech among one cohort of U.S. teenagers, say, would circulate somewhat longer before getting into someone's blog, then everyone's blog, then a published interview in a fan magazine, then an article in a newsmagazine. ~rb