a load of old cobblers

“A load of old cobblers” is British slang for “what nonsense!” and as an exclamation of derision or disbelief. The phrase began to be widely used from the 1960s and is still in use.

The first example in print of the full phrase “a load of cobblers” appears to be from the British popular music magazine Melody Maker, October 1968. However, when such phrases appear in print, they have usually been used in the spoken language for long enough that everyone is familiar with them. If this is so, the newspaper or magazine has no need to explain what such a phrase means.

The phrase originated as Cockney rhyming slang where “cobblers” refers to cobbler’s awls. (An awl was an essential part of the shoemaker’s kit, used to pierce leather so that pieces could be sewn together.) “Awls” rhymes with “balls” (testicles). The use of the rhyme allows the taboo word “balls!” to be avoided. Using “cobblers” as a synonym for “balls” dates back to at least the 1930s.

The term “load of old cobblers” and similar variants only gained wide currency from the 1960s, for instance in British sitcoms such as Steptoe and Son (1962–74) which featured two rag-and-bone men based in west London. It has also been exported to Australia and other countries to which the British have migrated.

In 2016, Sir James Dyson said that concerns that Britain’s international trade would be damaged by Brexit were “absolute cobblers.” It has also been used as a pun in a headline after builders covered cobbles with asphalt.

And it seems to be that much of what’s going on in politics today is most definitely a load of old cobblers.

  One thought on “a load of old cobblers

  1. how9473
    June 30, 2021 at 7:49 am

    “A load of old cobblers” we used this expression frequently!

    Liked by 1 person

    • June 30, 2021 at 8:28 am

      I heard it from my mother, who was English.


  2. Leanne Taylor
    July 4, 2021 at 4:45 am

    A new one for me – but I like it!
    (Now, when and where can I use it?):-))

    Yes, to your last sentence.
    I suspect that this has been the way since humans first gathered together.

    Liked by 1 person

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