A Load of Cock and Bull

“If truth can protect us from jaguars, dragons, demons and preachers, why can’t it protect us from presidential candidates whose cock-and-bull stories rank right up there with the Incas’ and the Mundas’?” —┬áMarty Kaplan, “Cock-and-Bull Candidates” Sept. 28, 2015

What’s the origin of the phrase “cock and bull,” meaning “a load of hooey” (Hoowey? How do you spell that)? One story is about a battle of hype betwixt two inns.

The Cock and the Bull were two of the main coaching inns in the town and the banter and rivalry between groups of travellers is said to have resulted in exaggerated and fanciful stories, which became known as ‘cock and bull stories’. The two hostelries did, and still do, exist.

I gather these inns do, in fact, still exist, but whenever you hear stories like this, you should respond, “Oh, really?” or “Is that so?” Whatever you say, don’t believe the story. They’re almost never true.

As The Phrase Finder points out, “What is missing from the Stony Stratford tale, and this is commonplace in folk-etymological sources that attempt to connect language with a particular place (see by hook and by crook, for example), is any link between the supposed origin and the meaning of the phrase. Why should patrons of the Cock and the Bull have been any more likely to make up fanciful tales than anyone else?”

The actual (or at least much more probable) origin of “cock and bull” is the French term “coq-a-l’├óne.” I know. You were just about to say that yourself.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.