0

No pun intended.
A friend posted on social media looking for a "shoe cobbler". I realize cobbler is an antiquated term, but I wanted to know if it was necessary to specify 'shoe'?

cobbler
OLD-FASHIONED
someone whose job is to repair shoes
(Macmillan Dictionary)

  • 1
    As a computer programmer I've seen a lot of cobbled-up code. – Hot Licks Aug 18 '17 at 19:37
  • 5
    And of course a peach cobbler tries to fix desserts. – Sven Yargs Aug 18 '17 at 19:40
  • Presumably your friend wanted to forestall offers of recipes. Seems reasonable to me. – 1006a Aug 18 '17 at 20:13
  • I'm seeing a lot of definitions of cobbler (not all) that include making of shoes and other leather goods. Belts and suspenders? I haven't been able to find further elaboration. Definitely not horse gear which would be a 'saddler'. – Mitch Aug 18 '17 at 21:17
  • Well, perhaps your friend needs his shoes fixed near a restaurant that serves peach cobbler. ...(looks up and whistles aimlessly)... – Spencer Aug 19 '17 at 14:34
4

Etymonline has some interesting information on this:

late 13c., cobelere "one who mends shoes," of uncertain origin. It and cobble (v.) "evidently go together etymologically" [OED], but the historical record presents some difficulties.

Cobble is also of interest:

"to mend clumsily," late 15c., perhaps a back-formation from cobbler (n.1), or from cob, via a notion of lumps.

Etymonline defines 'cob' as:

a word or set of identical words with a wide range of meanings, many seeming to derive from notions of "heap, lump, rounded object," also "head" and its metaphoric extensions.

And ODO has 'heap, lump, rounded object'-like definitions for 'cob':

  • the central cylindrical woody part of the maize ear to which the grains are attached.
  • a round loaf of bread.
  • a hazelnut or filbert.
  • a roundish lump of coal.
  • a mixture of compressed clay and straw used, especially in former times, for building walls.

As you can see, the etymology is uncertain. It could be something to do with lumping things together, but your guess is as good as any.

'Cobbler' is primarily used for shoes, as many definitions point out. (I can't find one otherwise, but that proves nothing)

Ergo, I'd say it's safe to assume 'cobbler' is of or pertaining to shoes, unless otherwise specified.

  • 1
    +1 for the etymology. I do still think that a post heading "Looking for a good cobbler" without any qualification would elicit a lot more Apple Brown Betty, Blueberry Buckle Cake, and Cherry Crumble recipes than recommendations for shoe repair shops. (Yes, I know, there are subtle differences between the aforementioned and actual cobblers...or not-so-subtle differences, if you mean "shoe cobblers".) – 1006a Aug 18 '17 at 21:43
  • 2
    Your 'OED' link links to ODO; OED is only available on subscription. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 18 '17 at 21:53
  • @Edwin you could say that to all my posts.. I'll bear it in mind – marcellothearcane Aug 19 '17 at 20:39
3

Supplementing @marcellothearcane's answer, it appears that the term cobbler could also refer to

  1. “…a person who illegally forges passports and other documents” The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English says it is American slang (link)
  2. a species of catfish commonly found in Australia
  3. A shortening of any number of Australian fish whose name contains "cobbler": Cobbler Wobbegong, Silver Cobbler, Estuary Cobbler, South Australian Cobbler, Cobbler Perch, Whitelip Catfish (Fishes of Australia)
  4. the name of a Scottish mountain, The Cobbler
  5. a baked fruit dessert (source)

Without any context, a person asking, “Where can I get a cobbler?” might receive any of the following answers: in an Australian fishmonger, in jail, in a baker's or supermarket, or in the high street. Of course, it goes without saying that the most common meaning of cobbler is a shoe repairer. But adding an extra word never does irreparable harm, and it is a common feature in any spoken language.

As can be seen below, Ngram lends some support for the redundant expression a shoe cobbler

enter image description here

  • Nice one. I overlooked the other meanings! – marcellothearcane Aug 19 '17 at 20:41
  • 1
    +1 One small dialect point—In my region, the fruit confection is by far the most common use of the word—I know what a (shoe) cobbler is, but my default term would be shoe repair (shop). I guess I would use cobbler for the profession, but I have much less occasion to discuss that than baked goods :). – 1006a Aug 20 '17 at 3:08
  • @1006a maybe it's also an age thing, I wonder if Australians tend to associate "cobbler" with a fish. I am tempted to think that the dessert usually has a noun (peach, blackberry, apple etc.) to qualify it, just saying "cobbler" is too vague.... or maybe not. – Mari-Lou A Aug 20 '17 at 3:16
  • 1
    I think it's like "pie"—I would generally expect someone to specify the type, but it's certainly possible to just talk about the thing in the abstract. I don't know that age matters so much as region; I just asked my kids, and they all knew the term immediately (except the 17-month-old). Shoe making didn't occur to any of them. But I'm in a small town in the corn belt, where that kind of dessert shows up at every potluck, and cobbler is the most common form/term for it. – 1006a Aug 20 '17 at 3:31

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.