MLA Gold Award Site

Why do we say "The real McCoy.

Well-Known Expressions

The real McCoy

Meaning:

It's the real thing - not an imitation

Background:

There are many theories as to the origin of the expression, 'The Real McCoy'.

One contender is that it refers to the Canadian inventor Elijah McCoy, born in or around 1844, who invented many things including an automatic lubricator for steam engines. Other automatic lubricators followed but were considered inferior thus engineers were said to ask for "the real McCoy".

Another is that it originates in Edinburgh, Scotland where, by 1870, the "the Real Mackay" was the established advertising slogan of the G. Mackay and Co. whisky distillery company whose whiskey was exported to both the USA and Canada. The Oxford English Dictionary records a letter written by Robert Louis Stevenson in 1883 referring to somebody as 'the real Mackay'.

Another is that it originates with legendary boxer Kid McCoy (1873-1940) who was so popular that many fighters assumed the same name. To reassure their readers that they were reporting on the genuine article, an 1899 edition of the San Francisco Examiner stated that the "real McCoy" had won his latest match.

Yet another theory comes from a member of the McCoy family of Long Island, NY, who says that his great grandfather ran a funeral parlor in Lower Manhattan during the prohibition era. Few corpses passed through the door because the establishment was primarily a front for a whiskey distillery which supplied the local speakeasies, who would ask for Real McCoy Whiskey.

While it appears that the oldest known variation of this expression originates in Scotland, it also seems quite conceivable that it was moderated into its modern-day usage by one or more of the other 'originators' - perhaps as a pun on the original.

Alphabetical list of expressions

Challenge yourself with BookBrowse Wordplays

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Victoria
by Daisy Goodwin

"A hit…The research is impeccable, the attention to detail, perfect." - The Sunday Mirror (UK)

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk
    by Kathleen Rooney

    "Effervescent with verve, wit, and heart" - Booklist, starred review

    Read Member Reviews

Win this book!
Win No Man's Land

No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien

Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.

Enter

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: A List of Cages
    A List of Cages
    by Robin Roe
    Robin Roe has written one helluva young adult debut novel. Alternating first person narratives by a ...
  • Book Jacket: Homesick for Another World
    Homesick for Another World
    by Ottessa Moshfegh
    The frizzy, freaky, funky, and frazzled all pile on in this much anticipated short story collection ...
  • Book Jacket: Conclave
    Conclave
    by Robert Harris
    Although best known for his fact-based historical thrillers, in Conclave, best-selling author Robert...

Word Play

Solve this clue:

H W S W T Devil S H A L S

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.