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Cockamamie or cockamamy

Posted by ESC on August 27, 2000

In Reply to: Origin of word posted by sid on August 27, 2000

: Is the origin of the word "cockamamie" Irish?

Its original meaning is a child's temporary tattoo. I don't know if the Irish said it first.

COCKAMAMIE. "'Cockamamie' means something worthless or trifling, even absurd or strange; a 'cockamamie' excuse or story is an implausible, ridiculous one. The word may be a corruption of 'decalcomania' ('a cheap picture or design on specially prepared paper that is transferred to china, wood, etc.'), a word youngsters on New York's Lower East Side early in the century found tiring to pronounce and impossible to spell." From Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins by Robert Hendrickson (Fact on File, New York, 1997).

"Cockamamie is the child's version of 'decalcomania,' dye transfers that youngsters used to put on their hands and arms. Since they were cheap, they soon wore off. So, 'cockamamie' first meant anything trifling or second-rate, and later came to mean simply silly or laughable." From Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins by William and Mary Morris (HarperCollins, New York, 1977, 1988).

"Cockamamie or cockamamy - adj. Slang. 1960, from earlier cockamamie decal (probably before 1926), apparently an alteration of decalcomania." From The Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology by Robert K. Barnhart (HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 1995).