Metal Type: Home | Library | Forum | Free Ads | Store

Use of the Phrase "Dog's Bollocks" in Print

Started by Dave Hughes, February 09, 2007, 11:37:16 AM

Previous topic - Next topic

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Printle: A Printing Word Game from Metal Type

Dave Hughes

I've recently been approached by a reasercher working on a BBC TV programme who is researching the phrase "Dog's Bollocks" - he thinks there may be origins in the Print industry.

QuoteI hope you may be able to help with some research for a BBC history series.

I'm producing the second run of BBC2's series Balderdash and Piffle – a rather sweet and playful show that delves into the origins of popular words and phrases and even rewrites the Oxford English Dictionary. (Please do check it out at

The OED is of course no ordinary dictionary: it contains not just the meanings of words, but the history of their use. How our series works is that over the last few months we've publicised a long list of words and phrases that the OED wants help with, and we're now following up leads sent in to us by the public and going in search of earlier and earlier examples of these words or phrases in print. If we're successful, we'll get our new information into the dictionary, and every little bit counts towards fleshing out one little corner of the history of the English language.

One of the phrases we're hunting down is 'dog's bollocks', and our 'dog's bollocks' word-hunt will take us through quite a number of curious applications of the phrase - including printers' slang for the punctuation mark :-

I'm very keen to talk to people about their memories of printers' slang of the 70s, 60s, and even 50s, and so I'd very much like to get in touch with people who were working as typesetters in these decades, ideally in London. Do you think you could help put me in touch with some people like this?

I can be contacted on 020 7424 8591, or 07973 131309. I very much look forward to hearing from you.

One such claim was sent in from someone who played a lot of brag as a student in the '60s, and said that a pair of twos was always known as the dog's bollocks. (Even though its far from the best brag hand).

Dan may be contacted directly at: dan- AT or reply to this post with your thoughts.
Printle: Word Puzzle for Printers Play Now

Keep in touch with Metal Type Get our newsletters

Dave Hughes

I have already replied to Dan saying that he may be barking up the wrong tree (excuse the pun).

I have come across the phrase "Dog's Cock" referring to ! - this was used both in the north and south of England.

To my knowledge the combination of punctuation marks :- was never really used much in print - certainly not enough to justify its own slang phrase.

What do you think?
Printle: Word Puzzle for Printers Play Now

Keep in touch with Metal Type Get our newsletters

Dan Williams

Are we sure this fellow isn't pulling our leg?

Dog Bollocks?


I still struggle with the name of that search engine...dogpile.
What on earth would our predecessors think of that one?

Dogone Bullocks, I just don't know much about vernacular on the British Isles.

Tom B

In my time in London on advertisement setting and later a national I do not recall the 'dog's bollocks' expression being used to describe the exclamation mark. I do, however, remember 'dog's cock'; 'nat's cock' or even 'screamer' being used to describe it and the use of 'dog's bollocks, meant that it was the very best of whatever refered to.
For example when I wore my first pair of 16 inch bottom trousers I thought that they were the 'dog's bollocks'.

Quick Reply

Please leave this box empty:
Type the letters shown in the picture
Listen to the letters / Request another image

Type the letters shown in the picture:

Shortcuts: ALT+S post or ALT+P preview

Printers' Tales - Over 30 stories from the pre-digital age. Buy now on Amazon/Apple Books

☛ Don't miss our illustrated newsletters. Click here to see examples and subscribe. ☚