“Codswallop” is a fun word. I realized this morning in a flash of insight that, although I was certain “codswallop” was a word, I had absolutely no idea what it meant. Good for you, neurons.

To the dictionary!

First thing: it means “nonsense,” which does seem like what it ought to mean. Thus it joins the hallowed ranks of “balderdash,” “poppycock,” “claptrap,” “hokum,” and “hogwash.” Let’s hear it for the English language.

Second thing: it is British slang. To that I say, kudos to the Brits, and a real missed opportunity for us colonial types. “Codswallop” is a term any dialect should be proud to have in its lexicon. I, for one, plan to begin wielding it at the slightest provocation.

Third thing: etymology. One dictionary simply says “Origin obscure,” which is deeply disappointing. Another is braver, offering this solemn insight:

…perhaps from wallop, British slang for “beer,” and cod in one of its various senses, perhaps “testicles.”

This is better than I could possibly have dreamed. The insights to be gleaned from those short lines…where do I begin?

  1. “Wallop” apparently means “beer”
  2. “Cod,” a word I had heretofore associated strictly with fish, apparently means “testicles”
  3. “Testicle-beer” apparently means “nonsense”
  4. My very favorite part: the word perhaps, which indicates that the team of lexicographers didn’t know the etymology, but that “testicle-beer” is literally the very best theory they could come up with.

What can I say? I’m a simple man.

5 responses to “Codswallop

  1. Cod (or codlings) to describe a man’s vulnerables (another excellent British term) comes from codpiece. Codpiece comes from codd (the German for bag).

    While some rogue etymologists have suggested the codfish might seem more baglike than other fish, this is generally considered to be piffle or even grot by sane persons.

  2. Cod piece? Hello? I think we all associated cod with balls long ago.

    Also awesome!

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