A Conversation for The Origins and Common Usage of British Swear-words


Post 1


I was told that the term 'cock up' was originally typographical, not anatomical (or even from brewing as claimed in the Swearwords posting).

A retired printer explained that the term for a letter that was not correctly aligned with the other letters, being tilted in the sense of a cocked hat, is 'cocked up'. If this error was not corrected before the type was cast and printed, the result could be costly to correct.


Post 2


I understand that the term "cock-up" was used to indicate an error made when an Excise Officer was recording the condition and contents of vessels and plant in a brewery or distillery.

Each survey was recorded on a line with separate column for each vessel etc. Each survey was timed and dated. If an error was made and noticed immediately the next figure on the line was written at an angle (cocked-up) to indicate this. If the error was not noticed at the time it had to be noted in the comments column at the end.

The measure was largely to prevent fraud.

The supervisor/manager inspected these records regularly and he would ask for a written explanation as to why the error had not been noted immediately

Although I cannot be certain this probably dates back to the days of the Excise Officer performing surveys in the late 17th or early 18th century.

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