A Cock & Bull Story - The Truth At Last
|Author: Ken Daniels||Published: 9th May 2011 07:46|
The Cock Hotel You've heard the expression "A Cock & Bull Story", of course. You may even have told a few whoppers yourself. At best it's an exaggeration, and at even better (which is impossible) it's a complete fabrication. Either way, it's used to impress someone or to gain advantage.
The origins of the phrase are Stony Stratford and its two main coaching houses in the 17th century; or is THIS just a Cock & Bull story? What about the mediaeval French "Le Coq et L'Ane" (cock and donkey) from which the Scots got their "Land of Cockaygne"?
Or "The Dunghill Cock" who crows loudest to detract attention from his unsavoury "castle"? Or the first citation in English - Robert Burton's "The Anatomy of Melancholy": "Some men's whole delight is to talk of a Cock and Bull over a pot." That was in 1621, just slightly pre-dating both The Cock and The Bull hotels.
Can we let the French have the glory, then? Perish the thought, eh? So let's start with the Egyptians... Another source might be the mythological fables of Nergal and Osiris--'Nergal' the ancient Phoenician/Persian idol means 'dung-hill cock; 'Osiris' was an Egyptian Bull, so a suggested etymology is that something related to myths and legends, ie not facts, is a cock and bull story.
Did I mention the Danes? Well, they have a word "bullen", meaning "exaggeration", nowadays an English pre-fix as in bullfrog, bulrush, sort of super-frog/rush along the lines of bull-models, perhaps. The "cock" bit comes from abbreviating "concocted", and cheap tat, eg penny-dreadfuls, were known as "cocks".
Munchhausen with his cannonball Have I made any of this up just to impress you? No, but someone who could have done so... and more... is the legendary Baron Munchhausen, immortalised in the stories by Rudolf Raspe (himself a colourful character, described as a rogue by his biographer, and not above "salting" land with valuable minerals then selling mining rights). Munchhausen visited the moon and had conversations with the inhabitants, caught cannonballs, had a round-the-world flight on the back of an eagle...
Of course, the Swedish scientist, theologian, mathematician and mystic, Emanuel Swedenborg, also claimed he visited the moon, but that is not a cock and bull story because he believed it.
I'm rambling - another good trait of a cock & bull story - so over to you to believe, or not that our town is the origin of "The Cock & Bull Story".
Pull the other one, eh?
A challenge for you:
Do you have any other theories as to the origins of the phrase? Maybe ones that you have researched, or ones that you have just made up in true Cock & Bull fashion (Just let us know which!).
Drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or fill in the comments box below. We'll publish your responses on here.