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4103.  Sun Jan 11, 2004 7:22 am Reply with quote

The load of bollocks that follows reaches us courtesy of Mr Andrew Sunnucks.

4104.  Sun Jan 11, 2004 7:23 am Reply with quote

A Bollock is a naval term for a pulley block at the top of a mast, also known as a bullock block.

It also means clergyman. This fact was used in a court case to prevent the Sex Pistols' album "Never Mind the Bollocks" from being censored. It was successful.

The case was heard on Thursday November 24 1977. The transcript of the case is wonderful.

4105.  Sun Jan 11, 2004 7:25 am Reply with quote


David Ritchie prosecuting
John Mortimer Q.C. defending
Douglas Betts chairman

Mortimer then said that he wished to call Professor James Kingsley to give evidence as to the meaning of the word bollocks. Mr. Richie objected to the witness being called. However, the chairman said ''let's get it over with'', and Kingsley was called. Kingsley told the court that he was the Reverend James Kingsley, professor of English studies at Nottingham University. He said he was a former Anglican priest and also a fellow of the Royal Academy. Under questioning from Mortimer he then went into discussing the derivation of the word bollocks. He said it was used in records from the year 1000 and in Anglo Saxon times it meant a small ball. The terms was also used to describe an orchid. He said that in the 1961 publication of Eric Partridge's Dictionary of Slang, he had not taken into account the use of the word bollocks in the Middle Ages. He said it appears in Medievel bibles and veterinary books. In the bible it was used to describe small things of an appropriate shape. He said that the word also appears in place names without stirring any sensual desires in the local communities. Mortimer said that this would be similar to a city being called Maidenhead which didn't seem to cause the locals in the vicinity any problems. Mr Kingsley said that Partridge in his books wrote that bollocks remained in colloquial use down through the centuries and was also used to denote a clergyman in the last century. ''The word has been used as a nickname for clergymen. Clergymen are known to talk a good deal of rubbish and so the word later developed the meaning of nonsense,'' he said. ''They became known for talking a great deal of bollocks, just as old balls or baloney also come to mean testicles, so it has twin uses in the dictionary''. (...)

Mr. Ritchie asked him if he was just an expert on the word bollocks to which Kingsley replied that he was an expert on the English language who felt he could speak with authority on the derivation of a word such as bollocks. Mr. Rochie asked Kingsley if the words fuck, cunt and shit also appeared in the Dictionary of Slang from which he had quoted. KIngsley replied ''if the word fuck does not appear in the dictionary it should.''

s: ASU


Last edited by JumpingJack on Sun Jan 11, 2004 7:26 am; edited 1 time in total

4106.  Sun Jan 11, 2004 7:25 am Reply with quote

The Dog’s Bollocks

Dog’s Bollocks tends to refer to something good, also paraphrased as 'the pup's parts', or 'the mutt's nuts', and so on. In the 1950s construction kits like Meccano would be sold in boxes of various sizes. The list of contents which came with the standard size box would be headed 'Box, Standard' (which became 'bog standard' when spoken) and the larger box was the 'Box, Deluxe' which was Spoonerised into the 'dog's bollocks'.

4159.  Sun Jan 11, 2004 6:56 pm Reply with quote

I think that'd make a question, wouldn't it? I'm posting a note in the Question Basket, anyway.

4169.  Sun Jan 11, 2004 7:28 pm Reply with quote


Andrew has done some sterling work. I've been telling people about this one all day.

4176.  Sun Jan 11, 2004 9:11 pm Reply with quote

That has rather a Port Out Starboard Home ring about it though, doesn't it? Is there any other source for that factoid? It's a lovely one if it is so.

4647.  Fri Jan 16, 2004 5:40 pm Reply with quote

Talking of bollocks...

Of all the utopian Russian Orthodox sects the most exotic were the ‘Self-castrators’, (Skoptsy), who believed that salvation came only with the excision of the instruments of sin..
Source: Orlando Figes, 'Natasha's Dance: A cultural history of Russia

Frederick The Monk
4650.  Fri Jan 16, 2004 6:14 pm Reply with quote

The followers of the Eastern cult of Cybele (popular with provincial Romans during the Empire) also sometimes castrated themselves.

In their mythology the goddess Cybele had a lover Atys who having been unfaithful was seized with remorse and, being unable to think of anything more painful to do, cut off his heir supply. Those wishing to become priests (Galli) of the cult were encouraged to do the same to prove their dedication to the goddess. This was achieved with the help of an iron clamp,a eye-watering example of which was dregded from the Thames and now resides in the Museum of London.

After a successful castration (if such a thing can be said to be 'successful') the priests would often take to wearing female clothes and jewelery, perhaps suggesting another motive for initiates to join the cult. The body of one such 'Gallus' was excavated recently (2002) in Casterick in North Yorkshire prompting the BBC to run the story under the headline 'Dig reveals Roman transvestite'.

s: Religions of the Hellenistic-Roman Age by Antonia Tripoliti
BBC article:

4651.  Fri Jan 16, 2004 8:21 pm Reply with quote

Casterick? Coincidence or Meaning of Liff?

4656.  Fri Jan 16, 2004 11:09 pm Reply with quote

Apparently the Brazilian wax for men is the latest thing.... masochists, the lot of 'em. Haven't they ever heard of Nair?

4663.  Sat Jan 17, 2004 9:01 am Reply with quote

A ballock-knife is not, as you might imagine, something found on the altar at a Russian Orthodox Church, but merely a knife worn hanging from the belt.

s: OED

4665.  Sat Jan 17, 2004 9:04 am Reply with quote

Hare's ballocks, sweet ballocks, or ballock('s) grass are popular names of several species of orchis, from their testicle-shaped tubers.


4666.  Sat Jan 17, 2004 9:27 am Reply with quote


So far, I haven't been able to find any direct confirmation of 'bog standard' or 'dog's bollocks' deriving from 'box, standard' and 'box, deluxe' as asserted by sunnucks. I agree with you that it has a P.O.S.H. ring about it, but the whole idea is so delightful, convincing and reminiscent of bygones that I'm not sure I care, really!

Jonathon Green's 'Dictionary of Slang' (s:SLA) has the alternative:

dog's ballocks
1. Anything obvious 2. Anything excellent, admirable, first-rate (orig. in phr. sticks out like a dog's ballocks).

Is that more convincing? Dunno.

I'd say Andrew's definitely right about the sailor's word 'bollock' for a masthead pulley-block, though.

Admiral WH Smyth's 'Sailor's Word Book of 1867' has:

Blocks secured under the top-mast trestle-trees, which receive the top-sail ties through them, in order to increase the mechanical power in hauling them up.

The next entry is:

Used to hoist in live bullocks.

My, my, they think of everything, those matelots, don't they?

Last edited by JumpingJack on Sat Jan 17, 2004 4:28 pm; edited 2 times in total

4667.  Sat Jan 17, 2004 9:31 am Reply with quote

dog's dram n.
(mid-18th-early 19th C.) the act of spitting in someone's mouth and hitting them on the back.

Er, excuse me, wha...?



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