I’m assuming this happens to be political jargon which lays on the borderline of insulting. I’ve heard the term in Never mind the Bollocks!! from the Sex Pistols and in some verses from Tubthumping from Chumbawamba, and even a few other British-type individuals on the Tee Vee. . .
So what gives? I’m a simple Yank, without a clue on this one.
I watch old “Whose Line is it Anyway?”. That’s about as English as I get.
The word has even made it into American slang (as a verb, quaintly spelled bollix and its past participle adjectival form, bollixed, meaning to really create a mess of a situation or a situation in which such a mess has been created).
By itself, it equates to the U.S. bullshit. Otherwise, it is a general term of disapprobation
that I believe there is one specific phrase (“the dog’s bollocks”?) where it indicates the best of something. (To confirm this, you will need a genuine Brit, but all the SDMB Brits are probably sleeping off their Friday night hangovers at this moment.)
Tom “bollix” really is the same thing? I thought so, but… One of the British fan sites for the sims is called Sims Bollix(a noun in this case, though), and the first time I read it, I wondered why on earth they’d call their site “Sim Balls,” if it was indeed the same thing as the term I’d picked up from reading English novels. That’s a damn strange name, just as I thought, then.
Tomndebb is on the money - “bollocks” literally means testicles. Usage is varied - it is often used in the same sense as “bullshit”, but also sometimes in the same sense as “crap” or “fuck”, although it isn’t as strong as the latter.
“Bollocks!” or “that’s bollocks!”
is equivalent to “bullshit! or that’s bullshit!”
but you don’t use the construction “that’s a bollocks statement”, as you could with bullshit.
“You’ve bollocksed that up” is equivalent to “you’ve fucked that up” but only in the sense of doing a bad job. You don’t set out to bollocks up someones car, but you could bollocks up fucking up someones car, if for example, you wrecked the wrong car.
Bollocks is also used as an angry or rueful expletive when you mess something up or something goes horribly wrong, e.g. if I make a total mess of the coding on this post, I could post “bollocks!” or “oh bollocks!”
“The dogs bollocks” or the abbreviated “the bollocks” is indeed “the best”. No idea how this started; I think it’s a comparitively recent development but I could be wrong.
The Irish have their own specific usage as a direct insult, “yeh bollocks”, which is only acceptable when said with the correct accent.
“Bollix” is not widely used in the UK and isn’t automatically equated with bollocks.
I believe *“Never Mind the Bollocks”/i] predates “the bollocks” meaning “the best” and so translates as “Never mind the Bullshit”.
The same thing (or a similar thing, at least) occurs with ‘shit’ around here…
Something can be ‘shit’ - that pizza was shit, you’re a shit, I’m a shit, etc. Not a good thing. One tries not to be shit.
Something might also be ‘the shit’ - that hockey game was the shit, this post is the shit, etc. That’s excellent.
My mother took a little while to understand the difference when it was explained to her. She said that she was shit a few times before she got the hang of it. Now she’s exceedingly hip, or at least she thinks so. In case my area matters, I’m from the east coast of Canada.
Never Mind The Bollocks (‘Never mind the rest of the rubbish, this is the real thing’ - ish)
Just wanted to add ‘Top Bollocks’ to the general discourse. Although one might think it not dissimilar to ‘The Dogs Bollocks’, it’s actually yet another (in some circles, only) way to describe breasts; i.e.
“Have you seen the top bollocks on that bird at the bar ?”
To which one might be entitled to respond:
“Bloody hell, I hope they’re not as hairy as mine”
The OED cites bollocks as an alternative to ballocks (testicles) to 1744 while noting the nautical reference to a block (used to provide extra power for lifting the tops’l) to 1889.
It then goes on to note the earliest slang use (using ballocks, not bollocks) meaning absurdity, mess, or confusion to 1916, with a citation for the same meaning to bollocks in 1919.
Interestingly, for the use of bollocks to mean testicles in the eighteenth century, the citations appear to all be pornographic. It would seem that ballocks underwent an orthographic change to indicate pornographic usage in a similar fashion to the spelling change reflected in come==>cum once come (to orgasm) generally replaced the earlier spend in the 20th century.