cove--a perfectly aimiable cove

bennymix

Senior Member
‘he is a perfectly amiable cove’




Decent hard-working coves with families to support are out of work, while the bloody company chairmen are still leading the good life in Rose Bay and Potts ...


Inlaws and Outlaws
- Page 63 - Google Books Result

Kathleen James - 2015 - ‎Family & Relationships

============
Cove = man

I'd never seen this before today in the Guardian, I think. The above sentence is from Oxford, which says it's 'dated'. Is it dated--rarely used?-- in BE?

Have fellow AE speakers ever heard it?
 
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  • PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    1966 ‘J. Hackston’ Father clears Out 190 The young coves round about combed their hair back with soap to keep it in position.
    1969 Advertiser (Adelaide) 12 May 5/4 You Aussie coves are just a bunch of drongoes.
    (Both Australian sources, and as you see 50 years old.)

    I might have used it once or twice as a replacement for "chap who has some eccentricity about him." I doubt it has been used in underworld cant for the last 100 years.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    I have only seen the word in BE stories written long ago. For example, I think I've seen it in Sherlock Holmes stories written by Conan Doyle around 1900. It seemed like a slang speech term.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    The word is familiar enough to readers of certain types of literature. Dojibear mentions Conan Doyle (1859-1930), which was my first thought too, but it was also a word used quite a lot by PG Wodehouse (1881-1975), and I suspect your first quote is one of his. I imagine the word is sufficiently well known among educated BrE speakers that it can be dropped into conversation to evoke either early twentieth-century upper-class English chumminess (Wodehouse), or a rather more sinister type of person in Victorian London (Conan Doyle). I expect this is the only way it is used in modern English.

    You don't happen to recall where you saw it in the Guardian, or what the context was, do you?
     

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I'd come across it; I don't think it was in either Wodehouse or Doyle. Needless to say, I don't use it.

    I've just googled "He's a * cove". The first few results threw up "strange", "queer" (in the traditional sense, presumably), "rum" and "decent".

    I couldn't say "rum cove" other than ironically, pretending to be some sort of tweed-jacketed, rifle-touting, owner of a grouse moor, or a member of the Monday Club. The other adjectives also carry the sort of upper-class ring alluded to by Uncle Jack. In the 'Daily Telegraph', someone (I didn't look into the matter) calls Nigel Farage "a strange cove", and that clearly says as much about the writer/speaker as it does about Farage.
     
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    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    "chap who has some eccentricity about him."
    Exactly, something of a rum cove - you can't quite figure him out. I wouldn't trust a rum cove.

    A genial cove is an amusing and harmless eccentric:

    Boris Johnson, the front-runner [for party leader], is not the genial cove elected Mayor of London more than a decade ago. He was a lark and a card then; now he’s as polarising a politician as there is in Britain.
    https://capx.co/british-politics-is-broken-and-about-to-get-a-lot-worse/
     

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    My 90+ father tells me that the word 'cove' doesn't imply eccentricity to him. He says that there was a time when he would have thought nothing of it if someone had said "Look at that cove over there"; 'cove' would just have meant 'bloke' to him. My father did not move in elevated circles. He doesn't rule out the possibility that the word 'cove' was the property of the upper crust and then became democratised. He thinks that 'cove' may have been succeeded by 'geezer' in popular speech, but he's clearly going back decades, as 'geezer' itself now sounds rather dated.
     

    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    I've always thought of it as underworld cant, as mentioned by Paul. The WRF dictionaries say it comes from 16th-century Romany; I rather think that rules it out as being an upper-crust term. :)
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    The WRF dictionaries say it comes from 16th-century Romany;
    The Online Etymology Dictionary agrees and gives cove (n.2)
    "man, person, fellow, chap," canting slang from at least 1560s, said to be from Romany (Gypsy) cova "a thing," covo "that man" [Barrère and Leland].

    The OED gives
    Cove.
    Etymology:
    The early variant cofe has suggested that this is identical with Scots cofe1 n., ‘chapman, pedlar’, [...]But the phonetic change of f to v, at so late a date, is not usual; and the origin of the word still remains obscure. Compare also co2
    1567 T. Harman Caueat for Commen Cursetors (new ed.) Peddelars Frenche sig. Giii A gentry cofe, a noble or gentle man.
    1819 J. H. Vaux New Vocab. Flash Lang. in Memoirs II. (at cited word) The master of a house or shop is called the Cove..; when joined to particular words, as a cross-cove, a flash-cove, a leary-cove, &c., it simply implies a man of those several descriptions.

    1Scottish. Obsolete.
    cofe
    2. A hawker or pedlar.
    a1555 D. Lindsay Descr. Peder Coffeis 10 Ane scroppit cofe..to by hennis reid-wod he rynnis.

    2co
    Obsolete Cant.
    (See quots.)
    1567 T. Harman Caueat for Commen Cursetors (new ed.) sig. Fiiii A Kynchen Co is a young boye..that when he groweth two yeres, he is better to hang then to drawe forth.
     
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    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Have only just seen this thread. I’m certainly well aware of the word cove, synonymous with fellow, chap, etc. But it had never occurred to me before that I’ve probably never actually heard anyone use it in real life!
     

    bennymix

    Senior Member
    Have only just seen this thread. I’m certainly well aware of the word cove, synonymous with fellow, chap, etc. But it had never occurred to me before that I’ve probably never actually heard anyone use it in real life!

    Here's a contemporary example:


    Luton South's ... - ConservativeHome's Seats & Candidates blog

    https://conservativehome.blogs.com/.../luton-souths-conservative-candidate-says-votin...




    Jul 28, 2009 - This Nigel Huddlestone sounds like an honest hardworking cove who will no doubt work flat out on behalf of the people of Luton South. Esther ..
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Right. Thank you. :D But if that’s the sort of person who still uses the word cove (or did, 10 years ago), you can keep him. He’s evidently also the sort of person who thinks nothing of firing gratuitous insults online at a woman he’s no doubt never even met.
     

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    It comes across to me as very quaintly old-fashioned - characteristic of a style of writing (and character) which used to be more common 50 years ago than they are now.

    I've never personally heard anyone use it in real life.
     
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