Under the cosh

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Priesty | 11:58 Mon 07th Nov 2005 | Phrases & Sayings
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When a Football team are "under the cosh" what is a cosh?


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A sort of club, bludgeon or truncheon used as a weapon. Young thugs in the 1950s were often called "cosh boys". In football terms, it means a team is being 'punished' or 'beaten'. The word itself probablycomes from the Romany word 'koshter', meaning a stick.
Chambers online dictionary says that the etymology goes back to the 19th Century. Wonder if it has anything to do with press gangs?

A cosh is the british name for a blackjack which was a small, easily-concealed weapon consisting of a leather-wrapped lead weight attached to the end of a leather-wrapped coil-spring or rigid shaft, with a lanyard or strap on the end opposite the weight. Materials other than lead and leather are sometimes used to construct these weapons. Traditionally used by police officers, they have been replaced by telescopic and side-handle batons.

It's cosh, as in "weighted stick" and it means "under threat or coercion", which I imagine you would be if you were conscripted under impressment.

The earliest reference dates back to the late 1860s, appearing in a book by A Merchant called 'Six Years in Prison'. It seems, therefore, much more likely to be underworld slang based on a Romany original than a press gang usage. I'm not sure when impressment ended, but I imagine it had pretty well ceased by the late 19th century. Later, in the 20th century, sailors certainly did use the word to describe the night-stick carried by naval shore patrols in ports.

Click here for the Wikipedia web-page about the press gangs, Big Mac. They more or less ceased operating after the Napoleonic wars in 1815, as the Royal Navy did not fight any further major engagements until World War I in 1914.
Had the word 'cosh' been in common currency amongst impressment officers or impressed men, it would probably have appeared in print long before 1869, given that the gangs had operated for centuries. Cheers

Talks to Spurs fans they would know ;-)

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