Why we say: ‘Cock and Bull story’

Used today to indicate an absurd or highly improbable tale being passed off as true, the root of the phrase is claimed by a small town in Buckinghamshire

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The attractive historic market town of Stony Stratford is located near Milton Keynes on the old Roman road of Watling Street, now the A5. During the late 18th and early 19th centuries, at the height of the coaching era, it was used as a regular stopping point for mail and passenger coaches travelling from London to the north of England.

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As the story goes, the people of Stony Stratford saw the travellers coming through their town as sources of news, current events and gossip from around the country. The visitors would broadcast their tales from the bars of the town’s two main inns – The Cock and The Bull.

It wasn’t long before the two pubs had developed a rivalry. Patrons would try and out-do each other in telling the most outrageous and scurrilous story, known as cock and bull stories.

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Despite little evidence that this origin is anything more another cock and bull story, Stony Stratford holds on to it fiercely. The town maintains the tradition of spreading exaggerated yarns today with the Cock & Bull Story Society, so if you’re ever going through the area, stop off at either The Cock or The Bull – or both.