A Load of Cobblers

Meaning of “A Load of Cobblers”

The phrase “a load of cobblers” means nonsense or rubbish. It is also used for situations that you may consider silly or during pranks. The phrase might have been derived from a tool called ‘cobblers’ awls’ used by shoemakers to punch holes in the leather. In spite of the related terminology, the phrase has nothing to do with shoes or shoemakers. The whole phrase is also used as just ‘cobblers’ a short form, which is considered an inappropriate language and yet acceptable. The politer version of this phrase is ‘a load of rubbish’.

Origin of “A Load of Cobblers”

It is stated to have originated in the United Kingdom from the cockney rhymes. It has been first used in Cheapjack, a book by Philip Allingham. He published this book about professions in 1934 in which he has cleared that “cobbler is slang for the balls.” This is because ‘awls’ rhymes with balls, slang for testicles. Cobblers then came to be used in the same way as balls.

Later, a British music magazine Melody Maker used this term “a load of cobblers” in its 1968 publication in October that year. Since then, it has been used in its present meanings.

Examples in Literature

Example #1

The Flesh a n’ all that stuff… by Paul Kelly

“Why, Stanislaus… that word…. The w***r word… that is used when a person is talking a load of old rubbish… Cobblers, in fact…..You know saying one thing and meaning another… That’s a wanker,” he explained with a nod of the head and the tightening of the lips, but Stanislaus looked even more puzzled as he scratched his tonsure slowly. And the cobblers …what is the meaning the cobblers.”

This is a passage from the short story of Paul Kelly. Father Eugene is telling the character Father Stanislaus about the word “w***r” and its use. He is telling Stanislaus that this is a rubbish word. Then he uses this phrase referring to cobblers but says that it is equated to rubbish or garbage. In other words, Father Eugene means that this phrase means nonsense. However, being a story about the clever use of words and phrases, the last sentence shows how Father Stanislaus tortures Father Eugene by asking meanings and definitions of different words and phrases.

Example #2

Semantic Enigmas from The Guardian

This is a question-answer page from The Guardian about a question on this phrase and the role of cobblers in it. However, it is strange that the question asks whether the cobblers are also deceitful people like estate agents, which is a typical kind of stereotyping. A member has posted the answer that shoemakers in this sense mean not professional but anatomical, while another has given exact meanings derived from the Cockney rhyme which are not ascetic.

However, another person has called this phrase a euphemism instead of slang with the logic that it is like the cobbler’s ball that he uses to wax the thread used for sewing shoes. Another person from Greece has concluded that as cobblers used to sit in streets, they get a lot of stories and tales from their customers, which they then churn out to their audiences in a nonsensical manner. However, it does not seem that any of these opinions have anything to do with the origin or the use of the phrase.

Example #3

From A Drop in the Ocean: Dramatic Accounts of Aircrew Saved from the Sea by Jim Burtt-Smith and John French

“The Cockney expression ‘ a load of old cobblers’ had an abbreviated equivalent among RAF aircrews; they referred simply to ‘duff gen’: a succinct translation of false information. It was responsible for all manner of disasters.”

Jim Burtt-Smith and John French have written the accounts of the aircrew which used to go with the pilots in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. Both the writers have tried to state that as the aircrew of the RAF used to meet a lot of foolish things on the way, they have woven up such tales. Therefore, they used to speak “duff gen” about such rubbish. The authors have used this phrase to point out the nature of the stupidities of their stories.

Examples in Sentences

Example #1: “He is carrying a load of cobblers and often engage people to let them waste their time by listening to him.” Here the phrase has been used as a metaphor for the crazy stories that the person relates to other persons and then make them waste their time in his talk.

Example #2: “His story of drowning in the pool and then dying is just like a load of cobblers when he relates to the people and then tries to win their sympathies.” This phrase has made this sentence a well-extended simile where this phrase has changed it into a story. The use of the comparison marker ‘like’ shows that the phrase has been used as a simile.

Example #3: “John is just scribbling a load of cobblers though he seems to assert later that he has penned down a long love. All of his assertions are a load of cobblers.” The phrase has changed these two sentences into metaphors. It shows that the phrase has been implicitly compared with writing novels. Therefore, it is a metaphorical use of this phrase.

Example #4: “He is carrying a load of cobblers in a way that nobody is ready to sit with him to waste his time.” This sentence shows the use of this phrase a metaphor as is clear — the word is carrying shows that he is carrying weight, which is of the nonsense stories.

Example #5: “Whether a load of cobblers or shoes, he is not able to win popularity for his conversation.” This phrase has a metaphorical sense. It has been used for stories that the person tells others. However, his stories do not have any importance for others, or it is comical.