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Cock and Bull revisited

Posted by Lewis on May 11, 2007

In Reply to: Cock and Bull revisited posted by Victoria S Dennis on May 10, 2007

: : : It's some time since the origin of a "cock-and-bull story" was under discussion.

: : : I note that there are several theories, most involving the animals themselves. But surely the answer lies in the age-old habit of referring to rubbish or nonsense in male anatomical terms, i.e. balls, ballocks/bollocks, cock (as in "talking talk").

: : : It follows then that the original form was possibly "a cock-and-balls story", meaning utter nonsense as it included both the penis and testicles. The "s" in balls would over time have become elided to the "s" in story, whether through usage or deliberately so, to spare the sensibilities of the oversensitive.

: : I think that your assumption that equating the family jewels to rubbish is an "age-old habit" needs some proof.

: The Collins Dictionary of Slang states that the use of "cock" and "ballocks" in the sense "rubbish" dates only from the mid-19th century, and "cock and bull story" is much older than that. Your theory also does not account for the French version "coq a l'âne", since neither "coq" nor "âne" have any anatomical connotations. (VSD)

I recall that I've looked into this before and there was a story by Aesop or suchlike.

if you stick feathers to a bull, it would win a cock-fight...and you would get fantastic odds because nobody would think it was a very good bird.

("Cunning plan" courtesy of Baldrick)