Posted by JOHN LAVERS on June 18, 2006
question: "A cock up"
I have looked at earlier discussion and none sounds as convincing as that told to me long ago by a farmer. It lacks any sexual connotation.
If at harvest time a farmer miscalcilates the weather and harvests when it is wet - the resulting hay will be spoilt and will need to be put into hay cocks to dry out - I e " cocked up". It would then be said of the farmer that he "cocked it up" -ie got it wrong - or it was "a cock up". Incidentally "balls up" is another perfectly innocent expression of naval/nautical origin described to me by a retired admiral and apparently refers to the balls at the top of the rigging. other nautically minded readers will know more details.