Codd’s bottles and codswallop in The Caterer magazine

Advert for Codd's globe-stoppered bottles from the Caterer magazine (1878)

Advert for Codd’s globe-stoppered bottles from the Caterer magazine (1878)

‘Codswallop’ is a term long-known to me as meaning ‘drivel’ so I was intrigued to come across this advert for Codd’s bottles, from which the word is supposed to be derived. The story goes that Hiram Codd patented a bottle for fizzy drinks with a glass marble – a ‘globe’ – in the neck and that ‘wallop’ was slang for beer, so ‘Codd’s wallop’ became a derogatory term for weak beer.

Codd’s ‘globe-stoppered’ bottles were very popular – ‘the greatest invention of the age in connection with aerated waters’, according to another advertiser –  with 450 soda water makers using the technology according to the advert. It won awards from Philadelphia to Vienna.

For the editors at the Oxford English Dictionary, however, the Codd’s wallop story poses a problem because they can find no trace of it until 1959, when it crops up in an episode Hancocks’s Half Hour:

Tony (Hancock): I was not.

Sidney (Sid James): Don’t give me that old codswallop. You were counting your money…

The theory has been cited in Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, but how could if have survived by word of mouth for the best part of 100 years without  ever being captured in print?

The page advert for Codd’s bottles appeared in the launch issue of The Caterer & Refreshment Contractors Gazette, from April 6, 1878. It was published by J Gilbert Smith & Co under the editorship of John Plummer and is a fascinating magazine, for its advertising as well as the editorial. And it’s still going strong today, as The Caterer, a ‘multimedia brand’ that regards itself as ‘the beating heart of UK hospitality’.

In 1878, The Caterer was based at 67 Leadenhall Street in the City of London. This was close to Leadenhall Market, a covered food market built in 1881, though there had been traders there for 400 years. The market specialised in meat – hence the butchers’ hooks that can still be seen outside many of the shops – though today you’re more likely to go there for a lunchtime beer or on a scene-spotting trip for the Harry Potter films.

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