AskDefine | Define codswallop

Dictionary Definition

codswallop n : nonsensical talk or writing [syn: folderol, rubbish, tripe, trumpery, trash, wish-wash, applesauce]

User Contributed Dictionary


Alternative spellings


Supposedly from Hiram Codd, a British manufacturer of soft drinks, who patented several designs for mineral water bottles in the 1870s + wallop, a beer drinker’s pejorative reference to soft drink. There is an absence of evidence supporting this. The suggestion is further discredited by early spellings of the term. OED Online-BBC Balderdash and Piffle
There is another possible source for this phrase coming from a connection to cod fishing. The long history of Cod Fishing in the North Atlantic as well as the earlier references to the phrase lends credence to its having an etimology dating back before the 1870's. The term wallop can mean the eggs (roe) of the fish, which in the case of the Cod fish was considered useless garbage as compared to the value of such items as caviar. This explaination gives an even closer etimological definition for the current use of the term as meaning somthing that is of little or no value.


  1. In the context of "UK|Australia|slang": senseless talk or writing; nonsense.

Extensive Definition

The word codswallop, primarily a British English term meaning "nonsense", is of uncertain origin.

Possible origin

Brewing terminology

The more popular etymology places the word's origins in the brewing industry. In 1876, British soft drink maker Hiram Codd designed and patented a bottle designed specifically for fizzy drinks. Though his Codd-neck bottle was a success in the fizzy drink industry, alcohol drinkers disparaged Codd's invention, often saying it was only good for "wallop" (a slang term for beer in the late-19th century). The term soon became "Codd's Wallop" and was eventually used for anything of low-quality or rubbish.
Critics argue that this term, despite its popularity, is not likely to be the origin, as the first recorded use of codswallop was not until around the 1960s, over ninety years after the term for beer fell out of use. Also, if that were the derivation, we would expect to see it exist sometimes in the form of 'Codd's Wallop' and for an intermediate spellings of 'coddswallop' to be found.
Contrary to the critics quoted above many people with English ancestry in the working classes recall the use of the term in the 1930s & 1940s in northern England.
As the BBC series Balderdash & Piffle describes, the term appears in a 1959 episode of Hancock's Half Hour.


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