Also used when asking a potentially embarrassing question about you. One uses a nonexistent “friend of a cousin” as a scapegoat to make the question more appropriate and/or to diffuse suspicion that the questioner is involved in such behavior.
Can also be rearranged to mean a “cousin of a friend,” “friend of a coworker,” “neighbor of an uncle,” etc. The “source” of the anecdote or person you are trying to “help” must be a vaguely-defined person at least two degrees of separation away from you.
A friend of a cousin has a neighbor who collects welfare and food stamps, yet drives a late-model Cadillac (Audi, Volvo, Lexus, etc.), has “deluxe package” Cable TV, and supposedly owns a cottage down at the shore. The cousin works 60 hours a week and drives a twelve-year old Volkswagen (Subaru, Chevrolet, Honda, etc.), can only afford basic cable (and doesn’t have the time to watch, anyway), and only takes a long-weekend vacation every two to three years.
A cousin of a friend is applying for a job requiring urine testing. Problem is, he has been smoking marijuana and illegally obtained pills containing Xanax and Codeine for years. How long will it take for him to get the drugs out of his system? And, by the way, are there any side effects of withdrawal I should have my friend tell his cousin about?
A coworker’s uncle got a flat front-tire while he was driving through Newark. A couple of minutes after he got out of the car to change the tire, he saw somebody trying to rip off the rear wheels of his car. “What the hell are you doing?,” asked this uncle, at the same time shocked, angry, and possibly fearing for his life. “Take it easy, man,” said the guy who’s removing the wheel from the back of the car. “You can have everything at the front of the car and I’ll strip the back.”
My neighbor has a nephew who works as a cashier at the A&P. He says many of his customers using food stamps buy prime rib, lobster, and other expensive food and, by the way, a few always try to buy beer and cigarettes with the stamps, which is illegal. Some of the customers use the stamps to buy their groceries and, after loading up their BMWs and Acuras with the food, come back into the store to buy their beer and cigarettes, with a “wad of twenties” in their hand.
My sister's brother-in-law is friends with a guy who owns an apartment building. One of the tenants is a 35 year old woman, on welfare and Section 8, who is not only a mother but also a grandmother! The woman has five kids from three men. A 17 year old daughter, two sons, 15 and 10, and two other daughters, 7 and 4. The 17 year old has followed her mother's lead in becoming a teenage mother and, like her mother, will probably not work a day in her life, yet get enough money to live a fairly decent lifestyle.