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Monday, 10 February 2020

Spot the Frippet: cockscomb/coxcomb.

Clothes go out of fashion, as do styles of furniture, architecture, music, and literature.

So, less obviously, do personal failings.

It's not only that the words for personal failings go out of fashion (though they do); it's not just that sloth has become know as laziness, or that we don't covet things any more but feel envious of them. 

Coxcombs just aren't on anyone's radar any more - unless to describe a cock's comb:

File:Rooster-1.jpg
photo by Žiga

Why has a word which describes the sort of conceited arrogance which so often leads to foppish dressing in the young (and occasionally the not-so-young) largely vanished from the world?

Perhaps it's something to do with our cultural trend of admiration for the wisdom of the young.

There are certainly coxcombs around. You might spot one by his expensive footwear or glittering gold jewellery, his impractical hair style or impudent swagger, his arched eyebrow or offensive snigger.

The poor loves will grow out of it, most of them, but until they do they can be quite annoying and intimidating. The cure is, of course, to call them coxcombs,* which will make them shrink back to their proper insignificant size and give us all a laugh.

Bless them.

Spot the Frippet: coxcomb. The Old English form of the word cock was cocc, (the bird). The word is basically an imitation of the sound such a bird makes. The word comb is also Old English, and used to be camb.

*Probably not to their faces, though.


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