cotton

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cotton on

To begin to understand something; to grasp fully; to catch on. Primarily heard in UK. It took me a few moments to cotton on, but I soon realized that they were talking about me.
See also: cotton, on

be in tall cotton

To be in a time or period of great success or wellbeing; to be doing very well. We were in tall cotton after my wife's late uncle left us his fortune. I hear Jeff's in tall cotton out in New York City.
See also: cotton, tall

be touching cotton

semi-vulgar slang To have a very urgent or desperate need to defecate. (Refers jokingly to one's feces protruding into one's underpants.) Boy, it's a good thing we got home when we did—I was touching cotton on the way here!
See also: cotton, touching

high cotton

A state of success (likened to the image of a field of well-growing cotton plants). Typically used in the phrase "in high cotton." I can't believe I got such good grades this semester—I'm really in high cotton now!
See also: cotton, high

live in cotton wool

To lead a sheltered life, one devoid of stress and danger. The image here is of being wrapped in cotton and thus protected. Primarily heard in UK. I never realized how much I had been living in cotton wool until I traveled and saw what true poverty looks like.
See also: cotton, live, wool

bless (one's) cotton socks

An expression of one's fondness for another person. Primarily heard in UK, Australia. Look at this picture that my sweet daughter drew me, bless her cotton socks!
See also: bless, cotton, sock

cotton (on)to (someone or something)

1. To like someone or something; to view someone or something favorably. It takes me a while to cotton to new people—I have to get to know them first. After we explained our plan again, the rest of the group seemed to cotton onto it.
2. To begin to understand something. Thanks for explaining that concept to me—I think I'm cottoning onto it now.
See also: cotton

cotton-picking

An intensifier used to express one's anger or frustration. Oh, he's just a cotton-picking fool—don't listen to a word he says!

cotton up to (one)

To pursue preferential treatment from one, often through flattery. Since I'm deciding who gets the promotion, Crystal has been cottoning up to me by buying me coffee all week.
See also: cotton, up

wrap (one) up in cotton wool

To be overprotective of one; to coddle one. You need to let the little lad play in the dirt once in a while. If you keep wrapping him up in cotton wool, he'll grow up too soft.
See also: cotton, up, wool, wrap

cotton (on)to someone or something

Rur. to begin to like or agree to someone or something quickly. She began to cotton to Fred, despite his country ways. She cottoned onto Jane's way of thinking.
See also: cotton

cotton up to someone

Rur. to try to make friends with someone; to flatter or fawn on someone in hopes of favorable treatment. James set out to cotton up to the parents of his friends. Just watch her cotton up to the teacher!
See also: cotton, up

in high cotton

 and in tall cotton
Rur. to be doing very well; successful. Jim's in high cotton ever since he got that raise. Tom: How's your sister? Mary: She's in high cotton. Just bought a nice new house. We were in tall cotton until the IRS caught up with us.
See also: cotton, high

in low cotton

Rur. depressed. She was in low cotton because her dress got torn. Jed is in low cotton because his favorite hound is dead.
See also: cotton, low

cotton to

1. Take a liking to, get along with, as in This dog doesn't cotton to strangers. Although this verbal phrase comes from the noun for the fabric, the semantic connection between these parts of speech is unclear. [Early 1800s]
2. Also, cotton on to. Come to understand, grasp, as in She didn't really cotton on to what I was saying. [Colloquial; early 1900s]
See also: cotton

wrap someone in cotton wool

be over-protective towards someone.
See also: cotton, someone, wool, wrap

ˌbless his, her, etc. (little) cotton ˈsocks

(British English, humorous) used to express your affection for somebody because of something they have said or done: And the kids brought me breakfast in bed — bless their little cotton socks!
See also: bless, cotton, sock

wrap somebody up in cotton ˈwool

(informal) protect somebody too much from dangers or risks: If you keep your children wrapped up in cotton wool, they’ll never learn to be independent.
See also: cotton, somebody, up, wool, wrap

cotton onto

v.
To come to understand something: I finally cottoned onto the new method.
See also: cotton

cotton to

v.
1. To take a liking to someone or something: That dog doesn't cotton to strangers.
2. To come to understand something: I finally cottoned to the new computer system.
See also: cotton

cotton up

v.
To attempt to be friendly to someone or something: The teachers all cottoned up to the new principal.
See also: cotton, up

cotton-picking

and cotton-pickin’
mod. worthless; damned. (Folksy.) Who is this cotton-picking bigwig pushing us around?

cotton-pickin’

verb

in tall cotton

mod. successful; on easy street. (Folksy.) I won some money at the track, and I’m really in tall cotton.
See also: cotton, tall
References in classic literature ?
I ain't going to, 'sociate with the Cottons," said Dora loftily.
I run away from Sunday School -- and went fishing with the Cottons -- and I told ever so many whoppers to Mrs.
All these books, no doubt, were tossed about in confusion, thus forming a visible emblem of the manner in which their contents were crowded into Cotton Mather's brain.
In this chair, from one year's end to another, sat that prodigious bookworm, Cotton Mather, sometimes devouring a great book, and sometimes scribbling one as big.
It is difficult, my children," observed Grandfather, "to make you understand such a character as Cotton Mather's, in whom there was so much good, and yet so many failings and frailties.
You see my Chief had promised me in writing that if I could scrape up a surplus he would not bag it for his roads this time, but I might have it for my cotton game.
I tell you I envied your magistrates here hauling money out of motorists every week I had managed to make our ordinary revenue and expenditure just about meet, and I was crazy to get the odd two hundred pounds for my cotton.
Shall we make another law-case and get more cotton machines for the boy?
My love," he said, shaking his head as she looked beseechingly at him, "I have too much Manchester cotton in my constitution for long idylls.
Then we put our night-gowns over our dresses, and were laid peacefully in bed when Betsey came up, earlier than usual; for it was evident that Miss Cotton felt a little suspicious at our sudden weariness.
Cotton in the market, and ran all the way home, so that I might get in before he came.
And you, dear Marionette, why are you wearing that cotton bag down to your nose?
said my aunt, taking the cotton out of the ear nearest to him.
said my aunt, taking out the cotton on that side again.
When she had made her way through the brush and scrub cottonwood-trees that lined the opposite bank, she found herself upon the border of a field where the white, bursting cotton, with the dew upon it, gleamed for acres and acres like frosted silver in the early dawn.