I read a review recently that described a book much-admired here in Aus as “poppycock”. In fact the expression was sweeping fields of poppycock.   My sentiments exactly, but how rare it is to come across such a fearless judgment.  

Look what this clever reviewer has done.  She’s given “poppycock” an entirely new life with those sweeping fields. I discovered two possible origins, both Dutch: either “soft dung”, or “doll excrement”. Neither of them really fits the book in question. The reviewer has taken the dung out and put the flower in. We don’t think ‘lumpen’, we think ‘light, bright, insubstantial’.  And there are sweeping fields of this insubstantial coloured stuff, matching the lavishness with which the author lays it on. 

I’m always going to think of poppies when I hear the word from now on. Thanks, nameless reviewer!

Image: Alexandr Hovhannsyan, Unsplash

12 thoughts on “Poppycock

  1. A gorgeous image — made me think of the stream of 844,000 poppies that were installed around the Tower of London a few years ago in recognition of the beginning of the first world war. But not at all the meaning given in your commentary!

  2. Insult etymology can be quite an eye-opener. I like “late 16th century (denoting a frothy liquid; later, an unappetizing mixture of drinks): of unknown origin,” for the term balderdash.

    But a verbal raspberry that has had a resurgence in recent political discourse on social media is cockwomble, supposedly of Scottish origin, but definitely a term applicable to any and all benighted UK ministers, a recent POTUS, and innumerable others (both male and female) who have made considerable jackasses of themselves on television and on social media. I recommend its frequent application, if it’s a term new to you, for immediate relief of any frustration.

      1. He may see himself as a lovable Uncle Bulgaria, though in reality he’s more like lazy, greedy Tobermory. I still think he’s an absolute cockwomble though. Or maybe an arsecockle. (That’s the Scots word I was thinking of: a pimple on the bum or, as some would have it, a haemorrhoid.)

  3. It’s a wonderful image. I’m always cheered by the appearance of poppies in the garden (and a little sad when they subsequently disappear)!

    As an aside, have you come across Suzie Dent’s Word Perfect, a sort of etymological almanac with an entry for every day of the year? It was a huge hit with readers when it came out last autumn, particularly for Christmas gifts.

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