Wednesday, July 15, 2009

High Cockalorum

The cockney expression "high cockalorum" occurs in two 19th-century English books of which I am aware: Dickens' Oliver Twist and Kingsley's The Water Babies. The latter I became acquianted with via the 1978 film of the same name, in which "High Cockalorum!" sees service as one of the songs -- you can watch the relevant portion of the film here.

The term "cockalorum" means a more-than-healthy bit of swagger; indulging in rodomontade; showing off. Which is a pity, because it makes such a good word for a happy kids' song.


Kindred Spirit said...

Isn't this a great phrase?! I first came across it in this fairy tale: which my uncle told us years ago. My sisters and I just loved to repeat this story when we were growing up. I hope you like it too.

Anonymous said...

It appears also in the 1857 novel Tom Brown's School Days as high-cock-a-lorum.