[Ads-l] "cup of joe" (1928)

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Thu Aug 27 06:10:32 UTC 2015

HDAS has "joe" = 'coffee' from 1930, in Godfrey Irwin's _American
Tramp and Underworld Slang_, but several early cites are from Navy and
Marine sources. The following bit of verse indicates that "cup of Joe"
was already in use among Marines in 1928.

This is still much later than the 1911 evidence discovered by Barry
Popik that "Old Black Joe" could mean 'coffee without cream' in hash
house lingo:

"Marines in Nicaragua Gluttons for Punishment"
_Riverside (Calif.) Daily Press_, Oct. 31, 1928, p. 6, col. 3 [GenealogyBank]
Frank J. Hicks, whose parents reside at 324 Eucalyptus avenue, this
city, and who is with the U.S.S. New Mexico's detachment of marines,
now stationed in Chinendega, Nicaragua, gives his version of a
marine's experiences in the southern republic in the following lines,
headed, "Leather Necks in Nicaragua":
"I will print you a few lines
To let you in on the news.
Far from the seashores of Nicaragua,
Into the jungles we go,
Wading the mud and cursing our luck,
Wishing to God it would snow.
We stop wet with sweat
And wring out our shirts,
Throw off our packs
And sleep in the dirt.
Can't go to sleep
Because the mosquitoes bite.
We have to let them
Because we are too tired to fight.
Wake up in the morning
To drink a cup of Joe,
Throw on our packs
For the same old go.
Wade mud to our knees,
Sometimes to the neck;
Makes you think of your home
In the U.S., by heck!
Welcome to a place
About forty feet square;
The boys stretch their necks
And come up for air.
The skipper says, 'Boys,
Put up the camp'
And we all got sick
Because the ground was damp.
I will put out the lights
And call it the end.
If you don't believe this story,
Try and make Bend."

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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