Posted by David FG on July 16, 2005
In Reply to: Cock-up posted by Smokey Stover on July 16, 2005
: : So, this week at work I was talking about a project that was going awry. I said, "It's gonna be a cock up." And my coworkers looked stunned. Which was the effect I was going for anyway. Then I got to thinking about the phrase and remembered that someone said it was not "dirty" but had to do with archery or something.
: : www.phrases.org.uk bulletin_board 21 messages 619.html
: : I tried to looked it up on Phrase Finder but after I typed in "cock up," I got a warning that I was trying to access a "non business site." So what will be my defense when my boss gets the daily Internet use report and asks me why I was looking up an obscene phrase?
: I can't really add to Dr. Briggs' research. The OED confirms, naturally, the meaning you assign to the word "cock-up": "4. A blunder, a mistake, a confused situation. slang. [earliest citation:] 1948 PARTRIDGE Dict. Forces' Slang 44 He made a complete cock-up of his orders."
: In regard to the actual origin of the term, all it says (under "cock, verb") is "Here are included a number of separate uses, which appear all to be derived, in one way or another, from the name of the fowl." It seems apparent that this bit of British slang originated, or came into vogue, in the British Armed Services during World War II. SS
I would just like to add that in UK usage many instances of a profanity + 'up' mean a mistake, whereas a profanity + 'off' means 'go away'.