Cough to
Posted: 06 July 2018 04:36 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Cough to, meaning confess to.

Previously I though I was hearing “cop to” but recently I’ve read “cough to” several times.

Is this a very recent form? I can’t find examples on the internet older than 2003.

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Posted: 06 July 2018 06:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I can not find it in any of the dictionaries that I refer to. How often have you seen or heard it? It sounds like a misinterpretation of the sound of the term “cop to” to me.

That reminds me of the time my brother asked me why I pronounced “oyster” as “oyscher”. I said, “Because that is how I have always heard it.” That was around 15 years ago when I was 52 years old. No one before that had ever corrected me. Actually, I never talked about oysters all that often, but one would think that someone, at some point, would have corrected me long before that. Now I still have to pause a bit before I pronounce it correctly.

[ Edited: 06 July 2018 07:19 PM by Eyehawk ]
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Posted: 07 July 2018 02:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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OP Tipping - 06 July 2018 04:36 PM

Cough to, meaning confess to.

Previously I though I was hearing “cop to” but recently I’ve read “cough to” several times.

Is this a very recent form? I can’t find examples on the internet older than 2003.

Is this an extension of the spelling of hiccup as hiccough?

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Posted: 07 July 2018 08:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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To my mind the connection between a cough and a confession is pretty straightforward.

“I can not find it in any of the dictionaries that I refer to. How often have you seen or heard it? “

I have not kept formal records on this topic. A small number, but a bit of Googlation shows it is common.

Some examples from the wild:
From Rule 34 (a novel by Charles Stross, 2004)
“He coughed to it voluntarily, and more to the point, he handed over the material”

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2003/mar/18/1
Diary: Matthew Norman (2003)
“- posing as a friend - infiltrated her bedroom to interview the poor woman. A suspicious matron walked in, just before the camera flashed, at which point the reporter coughed to it and left.”

https://www.thesun.co.uk/archives/news/1028524/hospital-patient-confesses-to-unsolved-murder/
Hospital patient confesses to unsolved murder (2012)
“Washington, who was in prison for an unconnected offence, coughed to the crime to guard James Tomlinson.”

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Posted: 09 July 2018 05:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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The (not yet fully updated) OED entry has cough to/out in the sense ‘to utter; to disclose’ in use since the late 14th century - specifically, in Piers Plowman:

Al ├żat ich wiste wickede by eny of our couent, Ich cowede hit vp in oure cloistre.

If you’re accustomed to speak of people coughing up information, it’s not a big leap to saying that they cough to a specified crime or error.

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