Cock-tailed & Cocktail


Cock-tailed & Cocktail

From the Oxford English Dictionary:

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Cock-tailed

1. Of horses: Having the tail docked, so that the short stump left sticks up like a cock’s tail. Common in the case of hunters, stage-coach horses, etc., during the latter part of the 18th century [1700’s] and first part of the 19th [1800’s].

1769 – Dublin Mercury: “A pair of beautiful black cock-tailed geldings”

2. Having the tail (or hinder part) cocked up.

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Cocktail (noun)

1. a. A cock-tailed horse. The fact that hunters and stage-coach horses, the tails of which were generally shortened in this way, were not as a rule thoroughbreds seems to have been the origin of the modern turf application [of the word ‘cocktail’].  b. ‘Any horse of racing stamp and qualities, but decidedly not thorough-bred, from a stain known in his parentage’ (Dictionary of Rural Sports, 1870).

2. (more fully: cocktail beetle) A brachelytrous beetle which ‘cocks up’ the posterior part of the body when irritated; the Devil’s Coach-horse.

3. [slang, orig. U.S.A.] A drink, consisting of spirit mixed with a small quantity of bitters, some sugar, etc.

1803 – The Farmer’s Cabinet: “Drank a glass of cocktail – excellent for the head; all sauntered away to see the girls”

1806 – Balance: “’Cock tail’ then, is a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters – it is vulgarly called a ‘bittered sling’”

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Cocktail (attributive & adjective)

1. That [which or whom] cocks the tail.

1600 – Rowlands, The Letting of Humour’s Blood: “How cock-taile proude he doth his head aduance – How rare his spurres do ring the morris-daunce”

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The Alchemist says:

Drink-lore aside, it seems plausible that the mixed-drink meaning of the above stems from the sense of a cock-tailed horse not being thoroughbred.  We could, perhaps, describe a drink as being thoroughbred if it were un-bittered, unmixed, undiluted, unsweetened liquor.

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