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Cocking a snook

Posted by TheFallen on March 03, 2003

In Reply to: Cocking a snook posted by R. Berg on March 02, 2003

: : "...[the Oxford Union's] support for Amercia was just a way of cocking
: : a snook at the French." (New York Times, 2/28/3)
: : How do you get from "cocking" and "snook" to "thumbing your nose"?

: As this one's mostly British, I've deferred to our friends on Greenwich time, but they haven't kprovided an explanation. Webster's Second Unabr. defines "snook" as the nose-thumbing gesture, origin uncertain. Cocking one would be aiming it at somebody.

I thought I'd posted a reply to this one but can't see it. Cocking a snook describes a very old British insult by gesture.

To deal with it the wrong way round, the suspicion is that "snook" is a corruption of "snoot" which itself is a British regional variation on "snout". All makes sense so far...

As for "cocking", if you think about how the gesture is made - placing the thumb on the tip of one's noise, with fingers splayed pointing upwards and then waggled - I'm pretty certain that the "cocking" part comes from coxcomb (or cock's comb if you'd rather), because visually it is a little reminiscent of a rooster's comb. A coxcomb was also an old word for jester or fool, so-called again because of the shape of his cap and bells.

Hence cocking a snook - originally showing someone you think they're a fool, and from there, just being defiant and impertinent.