Earliest usage of "cow orker"

Inspired by this thread in MPSIMS.

I know that some people here think that the term cow orker (or cow-orker if you prefer) is strictly an SDMB invention, but I know that I have heard it used in various other places before I even knew that this board existed.

I think that the first place I encountered the term was in one of Scott Adams’ Dilbert newsletters. Searching through the archives I found this from the Dilbert DNRC Newsletter # 17 from August of 1997.

Can anyone provide a cite for an earlier usage of cow-orker?

My understanding was that the term was coined on the Adams site; whether by Adams himself or a contributor I don’t remember.

I’ve no idea on the veracity of this site, but

n. fortuitous typo for co-worker, widely used in Usenet, with perhaps a hint that orking cows is illegal. This term was popularized by Scott Adams (the creator of Dilbert) but already appears in the January 1996 version of the scary devil monastery FAQ, and has been traced back to a 1989 sig block.


Google comes up with a usenet usage from February 23, 1997, beating Dave by some time. In addition, this comment:

indicates it was not a new usage at that point.

Here’s a usage from February 1996.

And an earlier one from March 1995.

AFAIK, it was first used in the discussion of Urban Legends and shows up in alt.folklore.urban in the early 90s.

A secretary at my old company hyphenated cow-
orker across a line in a memo back in the mid 80’s.
I don’t know if she had seen it elsewhere, or did
it on purpose. That was the earliest I ever saw it.

If you trim your google search a bit more carefully, you’ll find it in the signature of somebody named Charles A Anderson in some 1989 articles:

/-Charles-Anderson-\      c...@midgard.mn.org || (backbone)!bungia!midgard!caa
\------------------/  c...@garnet.ssd.cdc.com || (backbone)!shamash!garnet!caa
    I'm gonna make like yesterday's lunch, down and out the back.  -me
(The above quote has been rated as gross, digusting, and tacky by my cow-
orkers at work...are you a cow orker?  Would you like to be one? Send $5
and SASEE to me for free (almost) informative (more or less) redundant (very)
information packet.  VISA and MasterCard accepted (and abused


The gag undoubtedly goes back much further than that. Yes, it was in common use on afu in the early 90’s. I wouldn’t be surprised if it germinated in some strictly typewritten form prior to electronic communication.

Thanks for all the replies. I knew the term had been around a while, but I never realized it went that far back.

The practice of orking cows is said to have come from Frankish invaders on the Orkney Islands, during the reign of Ethelred the First. The provenance is scant, at best, and we can’t really call it history. It is probably no more than anti-Frankish folklore. The trend persists, though, and Frankish people are derided even today. :stuck_out_tongue:

Asking for a totally Frank answer: How exactly did Ethelred ork his cows? And why? Did he have help? And most importantly, did anything come from this orking?

I can’t do it. I just can’t. It’s there, it’s perfect. It’s too perfect. Somebody else. I just can’t.

:confused: What? You mean All-Beef Franks? :confused:

Ok, I have no shame, let me do it.

The cows, if the orking was thorough enough.

Deja View was bought by Google. I went to Google Groups but there is no way to sort by date in reverse order. I tried clicking on the last page but the number of hits decreased each time I went 10 pages. Might try emailing Google and asking.

No, but you can limit the search to only old messages. Which is how I found the Charles Anderson sig line above. Search prior to 1982, prior to 1983, and so on, until you get some hits.

Nitpick: It was “Deja News.”

Deja View is a PC graphics viewer program I think.

Google Groups search for “cow orker”