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Cock a hoop

Posted by Victoria S Dennis on June 02, 2011 at 10:19

In Reply to: Cock a hoop posted by James Briggs on May 25, 2011 at 09:04:

: : Mmy director said the customer was "cock a hoop". He said 'is that good?' I said 'yes, but I don't know why'. Do you?

: This doesn't seem to be in our archive.

: The analogy with a crowing cock could well be the origin. However, there's another possible basis. It's said that during medieval drinking bouts the spigot or cock was often removed from the barrel and placed on the hoop at the top. The beer flowed freely and the drinkers were full of merriment and delight. My 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, however, spells it Cock-a-whoop, somewhat negating this possibility.

That spelling isn't necessarily important: "whoop" was often pronounced "hoop" (as it still is in "whooping cough"). The Oxford English Dictionary tends to support the spigot idea: from 1529 the phrase "to set cock on (the) hoop" or "to set cock a-hoop", meant "to turn on the tap and let the liquor flow; hence, to drink without stint; to drink and make good cheer with reckless prodigality". This led to a figurative meaning "abandon oneself to reckless enjoyment". The original meaning of leaving a tap turned on seems to have become obsolete around the mid 17th century. As people forgot the original meaning, an association of ideas with cocks crowing probably led to the present day sense. (VSD)