Cock Up : Phrases
A bungle or mess up (but not a disaster) in a project.
Cock up is an innocent expression meaning error used by printers and others, including poachers. This latter group could well be the true origin since it is claimed that, if you startle a pheasant that you're stalking, then it will squawk and the noise sounds like cock up.
Alternative: Cocking a flintlock pistol. If not cocked up there was likely to be a disaster when the trigger was pulled.
Alternative: The arrows of traditional English long bows had three feathers. One of these, named the cock feather, had to be positioned away from the line of the bow string, otherwise it would hit the string and affect the flight of the arrow to produce a cock up.
Alternative: When a fermented barrel of wine is ready to be run-off for bottling, a stop-cock is driven into the barrel and a sample is tasted to check for quality. If the wine has turned sour, the cock is twisted upside down showing that the barrel is not to be used.
Alternative: In the ranks of soldiers practicing manoeuvres with their flint-lock (or percussion-cap) rifles, it was not unusual to hear a rifle discharge when it shouldn't have done. Some rifles lacked the trigger guard that is now mandatory, and trigger mechanisms in general were not to be trusted. Subsequently, when the rifles where slammed and jerked from position to position, any recruit who had eagerly cocked their rifle in error, would be likely to inadvertently fire the rifle. The remark would be "well, that was a cock up"... the mistake becoming known as a cock up and giving name to many other accidental happenings.
Alternative: Cock up is a well-known nautical expression. The Cock is the upper foremost corner of a gaff sail rigged sail. The Head is the upper edge and the peak the upper after corner. When fully raised the peak is higher than the cock. When raising the gaff, 2 gangs will operate the halyards both on the cock end and peak end of the gaff. It is most important that they raise the gaff horizontal, otherwise this large piece of timber will slew sideways into the mast (it has a metal ring round the mast to stop it coming away completely) and jams fast and then becomes impossible to either raise or lower. This is most acute if the cock is above the peak hence a cock up. It is quite easily done if the 2 gangs are not paying attention to each other.