… you could do worse than peruse Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable. Apparently, it helped Alan Moore hatch a good many of his great ideas. Written in 1898, it is packed with great tidbits of folklore and mythology, all seen through the lens of Victorian* scholarship (i.e., lots of it is not quite correct). More importantly, it is a great aid when trying to give a setting an oldey-timey feeling – i.e. walking into a tavern and being offereda “cool tankard” or “cobbler” rather than a boring old ale.
A few examples from the “C”s …
Cobbler A drink made of wine (sherry), sugar, lemon, and ice. It is sipped up through a straw. (See Cobbler’s Punch )
“This wonderful invention, sir, … is called cobbler,- Sherry cobbler, when you name it long; cobbler when you name it short.”- Dickens: Marten Chuzzlewit, xvii.
Cock Mahomet found in the first heaven a cock of such enormous size that its crest touched the second heaven. The crowing of this celestial bird arouses every living creature from sleep except man. The Moslem doctors say that Allah lends a willing ear to him who reads the Koran, to him who prays for pardon, and to the cock whose chant is divine melody. When this cock ceases to crow, the day of judgment will be at hand.
Cock. Dedicated to Apollo, the sun-god, because it gives notice of the rising of the sun. It was dedicated to Mercury, because it summons men to business by its crowing. And to Æsculapius, because “early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy.”
A cock on church spires is to remind men not to deny their Lord as Peter did, but when the cock crew he “went out and wept bitterly.” Peter Le Neve affirms that a cock was the warlike ensign of the Goths, and therefore used in Gothic churches for ornament.
Every cock crows on its own dunghill, or Ilka cock crows on his own midden. It is easy to brag of your deeds in your own castle when safe from danger and not likely to be put to the proof.
Latin: Gallus in suo sterquilinio plurimum potest.
French: Chien sur son fumier est hardi.
Spanish: Cada Galla canta en su muladar.
Nourish a cock, but offer it not in sacrifice. This is the eighteenth Symbolic Saying in the Protreptics of Iamblichus. The cock was sacred to Minerva, and also to the Sun and Moon, and it would be impious to offer a sacrilegious offering to the gods. What is already consecrated to God cannot be employed in sacrifice.
That cock won’t fight. That dodge wouldn’t answer; that tale won’t wash. Of course, the allusion is to fighting cocks. A bet is made on a favourite cock, but when pitted he refuses to fight.
To cry cock. To claim the victory; to assert oneself to be the superior. As a cock of the walk is the chief or ruler of the whole walk, so to cry cock is to claim this cockship.
Cock and Bottle A public-house sign, meaning draught and bottled ale may be had on the premises. The “cock” here means the tap. It does not mean “The Cork and Bottle.”
Cool Tankard (A) or Cool Cup. A drink made of wine and water, with lemon, sugar, and borage; sometimes also slices of cucumber.
Coon (A) means a racoon, a small American animal valued for its fur. It is about the size of a fox, and lodges in hollow trees.
A gone coon. A person in a terrible fix; one on the verge of ruin. The coon being hunted for its fur is a “gone coon” when it has no escape from its pursuers. It is said that Colonel Crockett was one day out racoon-shooting in North America, when he levelled his gun at a tree where an “old coon” was concealed. Knowing the colonel’s prowess, it cried out, in the voice of a man, “Hallo, there! air you Colonel Crockett? for if you air, I’ll jist come down, or I know I am a gone ‘coon.”
Martin Scott, lieutenant-general of the United States, is said to have had a prior claim to this saying.