Cup of Joe

Dave Wilton dave at WILTON.NET
Wed Jun 19 00:39:03 UTC 2002

It's plausible. RHHDAS records the term from 1930 and it is a term used
particularly in the Navy. The earliest cites in both the OED and RHHDAS are
US Navy/Marine Corps usages. Barry Popik might have an antedating of these

The Daniels explanation reeks of urban legend, but that doesn't mean it
isn't true. I don't know of any evidence to contradict it.

RHHDAS includes a suggestion that it may be from the 1860 Stephen Foster
song "Old Black Joe," an etymology suggested by another naval source. The
Foster song, however, doesn't have anything to do with coffee. This one
sounds like even more of a stretch, although not as cutesy as the Daniels

> -----Original Message-----
> From: American Dialect Society
> [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU]On Behalf
> Of Baker, John
> Sent: Tuesday, June 18, 2002 5:01 PM
> Subject: Cup of Joe
>         The OED says only that the origin of "joe," as in a
> cuppa joe (coffee), is unknown, but the U.S. Navy has its own theory:
>         >>Josephus Daniels (18 May 1862-15 January 1948) was
> appointed Secretary of the Navy by President Woodrow Wilson
> in 1913. Among his reforms of the Navy were inaugurating the
> practice of making 100 Sailors from the Fleet eligible for
> entrance into the Naval Academy, the introduction of women
> into the service, and the abolishment of the officers' wine
> mess. From that time on, the strongest drink aboard Navy
> ships could only be coffee and over the years, a cup of
> coffee became known as "a cup of Joe". <<
>         From
>         Does this have any validity?
> John Baker

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