...the usage that has caught my eye today was the use of the word 'crock.' Americans, if they are anything like me (not meaning to offend) will be uncomfortable using an unmodified 'crock.' 'crock-pots' are fine, as are earthen crocks et cetera, but a "crock of gold," as I read recently in a FT headline, or, worse "private equity is a crock of gold," from the article itself seems at best an oxymoron, and perhaps suggests gold of a less than aureate odour.I suppose I should start out by pointing out that (BrE) crock of gold is not unmodified...it's got of gold telling you about that crock. Half the reason why crock of gold sounds odd to AmE ears is that the AmE phrase is pot of gold. So, BrE and AmE speakers have different ways of describing the container at the end of the rainbow.
Is my mind in the gutter, or is the phrase 'crock of s***,' and its shortening to just plain 'crock' less common in the UK?
The other half of the reason is that crock in AmE can mean 'foolish talk; nonsense' (American Heritage Dictionary, 4th ed.), which derives from its use in the phrase crock of shit, which means much the same thing. In fact, crock can also be used as a mass noun, in the same sorts of constructions as (bull)shit is used (emphasis added below):
Crocs? Just A Load of Crock --blog headline (after my own sartorial heart), on Oh for the love of me!One can also use a crock to mean 'a story full of nonsense', 'a scam' or (AmE) a load of baloney. For example, this Men's Health story ('Cure or Crock?') passes judg(e)ment about different therapies: 'when it's a cure' and 'when it's a crock'.
The repetitively, diluted story is full of crock with many implausible situations and it doesn't leave too much up to the imagination. [review of Jaws: The Revenge on IMDb]
So, all this shittiness is originally AmE, but crock of shit is now well-known in BrE (1640 Google hits on .uk sites), and the briefer crock=shit seems to have made it too. In fact, the only Internet cases of stop talking crock, a logical step from the above 'shit' examples, are to be found on a UK student discussion forum (interestingly enough, discussing whether the word retarded can be used in a clinical setting--which we've touched on on this blog too).
BrE (and apparently AusE, from the internet examples) has its own crock, which comes from Scottish (so, historically unrelated to the above meanings), meaning 'a broken-down or worn-out person, animal or vehicle' and as a verb (transitive or intransitive) meaning 'to break down or collapse'. Many internet examples of this use have to do with racing horses:
"This has all the elements of a fairytale like that of Seabiscuit, who was a supposed crock who became a legend" [quote from a bookmaker in The Telegraph]Finally, if I'm going to be complete (or at least as complete as I can be) about dialectal uses of crock, there's another meaning in New England AmE, 'soot' (etymology unknown).