Bill and coo

  • Bill and coo is an idiom that has been in use since the 1700s. An idiom is a word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words, or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, chin up, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. We will examine the meaning of the idiom bill and coo, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.


    To bill and coo is to kiss and caress quietly, to speak loving words quietly. One will often bill and coo during courtship. Young lovers often bill and coo. The image is of two doves preening each other and making soft noises. The idiom bill and coo is found in writings as early as the 1760s. The word bill in bill and coo is a verb that means to stroke beaks together. Related phrases are bills and coos, billed and cooed, billing and cooing.



    The answer, of course, is that it would cost the film its central comic device: Ron’s cosy chit-chats with the Klan’s oblivious Grand Wizard David Duke (Topher Grace), where the pair bill and coo like late-night lovebirds. (The New Statesman)

    They kick and scream, and are often indulged by parents who glare at you with sheer hatred if you do anything other than bill and coo at them. (The Guardian)

    “It has the feeling that one has when you see these pieces — a very intimate, personal experience in the same way that billing and cooing are in a romantic sense.” (The Los Angeles Times)

    As I departed, one billing and cooing pair had propped a smartphone against a potted plant to take a romantic selfie in the vast plaza. (The Houston Chronicle)

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