From the “FOOTWEAR REPAIRER”, VOL. 2: no 7. London April 1948
” + + NEWS ITEM + BRISTOL AND PLYMOUTH ASSOCIATIONS OF BTA HAVE SENT RESOLUTIONS TO WESTERN D.C. URGING COUNCIL TO ASK NATIONAL UNION OF JOURNALISTS AND ALL NEWSPAPERS EDITORS TO STOP USING THE OFFENSIVE WORD “COBBLER” IN THE PRESS + +
A MORAL libel, or slander, as the case may be, is issued or committed every time the plural noun “cobblers” is used to describe that skillful craftsmen.
I use the term “moral libel” because it is not an actionable libel. It has been held by the courts that you cannot libel a class. You may say with impunity, for example, that all politicians are rogues, but you would be a foolish man indeed if you said Mr. BLANK, who is a politician , is a rogue, for Mr. BLANK would doubtless haul you up before one of His Majesty’s judges, who would in due process of law, order you to pay Mr. BLANK a sum of money calculated to compensate him for the injury to his reputation.
You cannot libel a class, ah ! —but you can libel an individual, as we all know and it would not surprise me the least if one of these days a shoe maker sought redress in the courts because he had been described as a cobbler by the newspaper.
WHAT THE DICTIONARIES SAY ABOUT COBBLER
-OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY: Cobbler: One who mends clumsily; a mere botcher.
Cobble : A clumsy mending.
– CONCISE ENGLISH DICTIONARY: Cobble : to botch, to make do clumsily or unhandily,
Cobbler : A mender of boots and shoes; a clumsy workman.
-UNIVERSAL ENGLISH DICTIONARY : Cobble : To do lumpy work, To mend or make, sew, in a rough, clumsy manner.
Cobbler : One who mends boots and shoes as a trade; (facetious) bootmaker, especially one in a small way of business; clumsy, bad workman of any kind.
What a hopeless task indeed confronts our intrepid reformer who would root out a word immortalized in saga and song, literature and legend.
The origin of “cobbler” is unknown. The earliest reference I can trace is from the writings of Thomas Langley (1362), The monk-poet of Norfolk, who ups with his quill and outs with “Clement be cobelere cast off his cloke,” a meaningless piece of alliteration that has somehow wandered into the Oxford English Dictionary. Of course there were shoe repairers thousands of years before friend Clement cast off his cloke, but whether they were branded as cobblers will never be known.
One thought on “COBBLER–a word that libels the craftsman”
I’m sending a link to this page to History Detective because I just watched an episode where they tossed off ‘cobbler’ as a synonym for shoemaker (even though they refer to him as a master craftsman)
Here’s my note to them:
Shoemaker and cobbler are NOT synonyms!
When I was young I dated an Italian woman whose father was a highly skilled shoemaker and repairman. At one of the first meetings I made the error of calling him a ‘cobbler’ only to be vigorously dressed down for such a grievous insult.
As the skill steadily dies out in this country that has become less understood as an epithet but I still pass along the info when I hear it used.
Read more about that here: