Green’s Dictionary of Slang

cod’s head n.

[dial. ? the ‘thickness’ of the cod’s head; note slightly later cod n.2 (3); cits. 1627, 1630 pun on real fish]

1. a dupe, a fool; thus lit. the fool’s head; also found in 19C as cod’s head and shoulders.

T. Chaloner (trans.) Erasmus Praise of Folie (1509) 83: But this notwithstandyng, the other coddes heddes in the meane while stande moste pleasauntly in theyr owne grace, or verilier stroke theim selues on the head.
[UK]G. Gascoigne (trans.) Supposes II i: He that fisheth for him might be sure to catch a cod’s head.
[UK]Appius and Virginia in Farmer (1908) 12: You cod’s-head, you crack-rope, you chattering pie.
[UK]Nashe Death and Buriall of Martin Mar-Prelate in Works I (1883–4) 201: Play still the desperate and shameles Swadds as you haue begonn; for you couch your Coddheads.
[UK]‘W.S.’ Lamentable Tragedie of Locrine III iv: Why then, goodman cods-head, if you will haue none of me, farewell.
[UK]J. Day Ile of Guls II i: Will the Cods head bite?
Fletcher Four Plays in Works of Beaumont & Fletcher (1912) X 300: Sweet Corporall codshead, no more standing on your punctilio’s and punketto’s of honor.
[UK]Dekker Wonder of a Kingdom I ii: No fish bites at the baite of my poore beautie, but this tough Cods-head?
[UK]Massinger Renegado III iv: Prethee let’s haue some sport, With this fresh Codshead.
[UK]Greene & Lodge Lady Alimony V iii: Barren, you cods-head!
[Ire]Head Eng. Rogue I 325: This struck my young Gentleman as mute as a Cods-head.
[UK]Woman Turn’d Bully II i: Farewell, Cods-head.
[UK]London-Bawd (1705) 3: Of a Countrey-Gentleman she makes a Cods-head.
[UK]N. Ward Miseries of Whoring 158: The codsheads shall / Out of their wonton Understanding call / This young Man to that Post of trust and care.
[UK]New Canting Dict.
[UK]Bailey Universal Etym. Eng. Dict.
[UK]Bridges Homer Travestie (1764) II 101: O warriors! cries this head of cod, / I’ll smoke great Hector’s hide, by g—d.
[UK]Bridges Burlesque Homer (3rd edn) 288: [as cit. 1762].
[UK]Bridges Burlesque Homer (4th edn) II 232: [He] / Gave his cod’s head a mighty shake.
[US]‘Hector Bull-us’ Diverting Hist. of John Bull and Brother Jonathan 65: She called him prating gabbler, liquorish glutton [...] codshead booby, noddipeak simpleton, ninnihammer gnatsnapper, and various other names.
[Scot]Edinbury Gleaner 55: Some are call’d Cod’s heads, wanting brains.
[UK]Satirist (London) 30 Oct. 235/2: This learned dissertation was suddenly put a stop to, by poor Codshead [a fishmonger] putting his hand in his pocket for his handkerchief, and drawing forth his blue apron.
[US]‘Jack Downing’ Andrew Jackson 33: It needed somethin more than a cod’s-head to manage, with such leger-de-main and hocus-pocus.
[UK]R.S. Surtees Young Tom Hall (1926) 218: She thought him a queerish-looking, cod’s-head-and-shoulders little man.
[UK]Dickens Bleak House (1991) 79: ‘Why, what a cod’s head and shoulders I am,’ said Mr. Jarndyce.
[US] ‘The Stirabout Pot’ My Young Wife and I Songster 38: Oh, my cod’s head’s stewing in her pot.
[UK]Cornishman 27 July 6/2: Ben, clodpate, cod’s-head, corky-brained [...] are all synonyous, in the language of the canting crew, for fool.
[Aus]Sport (Adelaide) 1 May 4/2: [as a nickname] They are waiting for Codshead W to return.

2. see cod n.3