This week’s obscure English word is cocky.
It’s not obscure in some senses; according to the OED its meaning, first used in the eighteenth century, means someone who’s ‘conceited or confident in a bold and cheeky way’ (as in, maybe, someone who trademarks the term). However, it was derived originally from a sixteenth century term meaning ‘lecherous’.
But what isn’t so well known are a couple of Australasian slang meanings, neither of which relate to the original English word. The first is more Australian: ‘cocky’ as an abbreviation for cockatoo, the parrot (Cacatuidae). And the second is a derivation, shared in both Australia and New Zealand – ‘cocky’ as a slang term originated in the late nineteenth century when small-scale Australian farmers were referred to in a disparaging way as ‘cockatoo farmers’. That was inevitably abbreviated, and although occasionally qualified as ‘cow cocky’ or ‘sheep cocky’ (the latter mostly New Zealand), eventually became just ‘cocky’, meaning farmer. It’s not used that much these days but was common enough in the mid twentieth century.
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2018