According to Hoyle and according to Cocker

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According to Hoyle and according to Cocker are two idioms that mean the same thing but come from different sources. We will explore the meaning and origin of these two similar phrases and discover which one is more popular.

According to Hoyle is a North American phrase that means according to regulation, according to the rules, in the correct fashion. Interestingly, the Hoyle referred to in according to Hoyle is the name of Edmond Hoyle, an Englishman who was a writer and a barrister. Hoyle wrote treatises on the rules and winning strategies of playing card and other games. His first treatise was A Short Treatise on the Game of Whist, published in 1742. It proved very popular. In 1748 Thomas Osborne, Hoyle’s publisher, collected Hoyle’s treatises in one volume. By 1780, other writers referred to game rules that were according to Hoyle. Many books about game rules are published with the name Hoyle in the title, those titled According to Hoyle are marketed under the name Richard L. Frey. Today, according to Hoyle is a phrase that is used figuratively to describe any situation where rules and regulations are followed. Note that Hoyle is capitalized as it is a proper name.

According to Cocker has the same meaning as according to Hoyle, to do something according to the rules or regulations, to do something properly. The Cocker in according to Cocker is Edward Cocker, a master of a grammar school in the mid-1600s. He wrote a book that was published posthumously in 1678 called Cocker’s Arithmetick: Being a Plain and familiar Method suitable to the meanest Capacity for the full understanding of that Incomparable Art, as it is now taught by the ablest School-masters in City and Country. This textbook was extremely popular and was the definitive math textbook for over a century. By the 1780s the term according to Cocker appeared in a figurative sense, note that Cocker is capitalized as it is a proper name. Though the terms according to Hoyle and according to Cocker appeared at roughly the same time, the phrase according to Hoyle is used about ten times more often today.


Does someone really think there are rules “according to Hoyle” that govern what can be done to you after you start shooting cops? (The Dallas Observer)

“We’ve done everything according to Hoyle from our end while this has been in the FBI’s hands.” (The Rockford Register Star)

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