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I'm reading an excerpt from John Lyly (1554–1606), and there are some phrases that I can't find anything about on the net or elsewhere. Here is the context:

Though Cutio be as hot as a toast, yet Euphues is as cold as a clock; though he be a cock of the game, yet Euphues is content to be craven and cry creek.

Does anybody know what the highlighted phrases mean?

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16th century English is different enough in terms of idioms, etc that it becomes somewhat difficult for colloquial modern English speakers, so there's no need to apologize when asking about it. 17th century English is also bit challenging; following the main plotline in Shakespeare isn't that hard but you'll probably miss most of the low humor he included without an annotated copy. In the other direction, by the time you get to 14th century English (ex Chaucer) an annotated (or translated) copy of the text is virtually obligatory because it's edging into a different language entirely. –  Dan Neely Feb 25 '13 at 15:04
    
I'm educating English Literature in university and you can't even imagine what i'm going through, i'm all alone and by myself to figure these out and they are so hard for me :D God help me! –  Tania Smith Feb 25 '13 at 15:08
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Euphues is about as hard as it gets: at the same time very academic and very slangy. "Though [Cutio] is a feisty gamecock, Euphues is a coward and backs down out of the fight." –  StoneyB Feb 25 '13 at 16:13

2 Answers 2

up vote 18 down vote accepted

A "cock of the game" in this instance is a metaphor. It is saying that Cutio is a cock bred for fighting, so is strong and vicious. Wikipedia has an entry for gamecock that explains the literal meaning.

Euphues, on the other hand, is craven. The OED quotes this very passage, saying that this use of craven means "A cock that ‘is not game’"1. So Euphues is neither strong nor vicious.

Cry creek, as StoneyB and TheMathemagician point out is equivalent to cry uncle2 i.e. surrendering. The spelling recorded in the OED is "cry creak", but I doubt the difference is significant.

  1. "craven, adj. and n.". OED Online. December 2012. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/43949?rskey=2e1rZd&result=1&isAdvanced=false#eid7996461 (accessed February 25, 2013).

  2. "creak, v.". OED Online. December 2012. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/44017?rskey=VLZOjM&result=2&isAdvanced=false#eid8006475 (accessed February 25, 2013).

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I don't know these expressions, but the obvious guesses are: Cutio is passionate (hot) and brave (like cockerels in a cockfight), while Euphues is a cowardly crybaby — a creek is something small and wet!

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This answer needs to be substantiated using facts, references, and specific expertise. Please edit. Note that we really are looking for authoritative answers, not guesswork. However your answer would make a good comment on the question. Thanks. –  MετάEd Feb 25 '13 at 15:50

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