Wilson Gray wilson.gray at RCN.COM
Thu Jan 20 06:37:58 UTC 2005

On Jan 19, 2005, at 10:30 PM, Douglas G. Wilson wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Douglas G. Wilson" <douglas at NB.NET>
> Subject:      Re: copacetic?
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> --------
> I don't believe the origin of "copasetic" is established, but IMHO it
> is
> possible that the original form was "copathetic". This is still is of
> unknown origin but it has a less opaque form ... one could imagine a
> fanciful coinage based on "congenial" (or even "cozy") + "sympathetic"
> perhaps ("a real copathetic place"), for example.
> "Copathetic" can be found just about as early as any spelling of
> "copasetic" AFAIK. Phonetically /T/ > /s/ is more likely than /s/ >
> /T/, I
> think.

But is this a sound change that one could reasonably expect to occur or
to have occurred in English, even if, e.g. Robert Johnson's "Stones In
My Passway" is accepted as derived from "... Pathway"? What are some
other examples of this change? And it's not unknown for slang terms to
have local variants. In East Texas, we said "bullcome." I've heard
"bullcorn" in L.A., though this form is low-rated as being "country
talk." I first heard a usage close to the "standard" one in St. Louis.
It was in the punch line of the first shaggy-dog story that I ever

A. And you know what was in it?
B. Naw. What was in it?
A. All this bull I'm shittin' you! Har! Har! Har!

-Wilson Gray

>  From N'archive:
> ----------
> _Evening State Journal_ (Lincoln NE), 3 Dec. 1919: p. 6, col. 3:
> <<OTHERWISE THEY ARE VERY COPATHETIC. / Sir: Discussing with Mandy the
> becomingness of rubber-tired spectacles, "Yas'm," said Mandy, "I think
> they's becoming 'cep I does think they makes a pusson's face look
> crowded.">>
> ----------
> IMHO this "copathetic" is likely to be the same word as "copasetic".
> the context suggests that "copathetic" may have been considered some
> sort
> of a shibboleth.
> -- Doug Wilson

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