I never realised how many meanings the word ‘bollocks’ has, until I was in the middle of an email today with fellow blogger Naptime Thoughts, who was toying with the idea of dropping it into conversation in New Jersey.
She had seen it in one of my posts, where I got more comments about what it meant, than about the actual post (which can’t have been that brilliant, because I can’t now remember what it was about).
So here are the definitions I came up with:
Bollocks, firstly, means balls or testicles. Its first recorded use was in Anglo Saxon records in the year 1000, then meaning a small ball. The term was also used to describe an orchid.
Professor James Kingsley, witness for the defence in a 1977 court case attempting to censor the Sex Pistols album Never Mind the Bollocks, said the word appears in the Bible, to describe small things of an appropriate shape. (You can read a short transcript here of the trial; it’s very funny. Counsel for the defence was John Mortimer, author of Rumpole of the Bailey).
Bollocks is usually used to denote rubbish; as in, ‘You’re talking bollocks.’ Or, ‘I’ve just bought a load of old bollocks from the car boot.’ (At the Sex Pistols trial Prof Kingsley said it was also used to mean clergymen, who are known to talk a good deal of rubbish.)
However the word can be used to show aversion, as in, ‘Bollocks to that, mate.’
Or frustration, as in, ‘Bollocks, I’ve missed the bus.’
It can also be used as a gerund (love that word), meaning a telling off, as in, ‘I got a severe bollocking for coming home late and setting fire to the curtains.’
And there is also the meaning ‘to mess up’ as in, ‘You really bollocksed that up, didn’t you?’
However, if something is really brilliant, you can refer to it as, ‘the dog’s bollocks’.
This last definition, according to British quiz programme QI, comes from the top of the range Meccano sets which used to be marketed as Box Deluxe. The lesser sets were sold as Box Standard which led, of course, to the term bog standard (meaning basic, unexceptional, or ordinary).
So there you go; my contribution of a load of old bollocks in an attempt to increase international understanding. Next week I shall be looking at arse.
Pictures courtesy of Creative Commons:
Sex pistols: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lwr/8523115727/
Hilary Mantel: http://meetville.com/quotes/tag/living/page10