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Old Bill

Posted by James Briggs on November 08, 2005

In Reply to: Old Bill posted by Christine on November 08, 2005

: Wher does the phrase "Old Bill" come from

If you go back a pge and search for "old bill" in the box at the top you'll find our previous didcussions.
Here's what I've found out over the years.

The Old Bill, ie the Police. I have come across several possible explanations for this expression. One suggests that "Bill" comes from the vehicle registration number plates of the Metropolitan Police in London in the 1920s. It is alleged that many of the police cars had numbers associated with the letters "BL" and were thus easily recognised. Why "old" in this context, I'm afraid, eludes me.
Another origin suggests association with "Old Bill", a WWI cartoon character, since many of the post WWI policemen wore "Old Bill" moustaches.
A further possibility suggests a link back to "Constables of the Watch" who each carried a weapon called a Bill.
Another theory that it is cockney slang for old 'bill and coo'- boys in blue.
Whatever the origin, the phrase has gained general popularity only since the early 1960s, perhaps due to the influence of TV.