Posted by Russ Cable on September 21, 2005
In Reply to: Hells bells and cockleshells posted by Smokey Stover on September 21, 2005
: : : I'm trying to find the origin of the phrase, "hells bells and cockleshells". In a discussion with an elderly patient of mine she strongly associates it with the World War 2 era, I'm thinking it is much older. Thanks for any input.
: : I've heard of "hell's bells" and Mary Mary Quite Contrary had "silver bells and cockleshells", but I'd never heard the two combined before. Rather clever, but only about 40 Google hits (including those with "hell's" and "cockle shells").
: "Hell's bells" was certainly saod often in WW II, but "cockleshells" makes me think it was British.
The nursery rhyme "Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary" from which "Silver bells and cockleshells" comes is quite well known in the US so I don't think actually having encountered cockle in the wild would be a requirement for the "inventor" of this phrase though you may very well be right.