[Ads-l] "cop" < "copper": Etymology, etymythology, or Scotch verdict?

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Tue Jul 11 14:54:10 EDT 2017


Does anyone know for a fact that the original NYPD badges were made of
copper?



On Fri, Jul 7, 2017 at 5:40 AM, Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at gmail.com>
wrote:

> HDAS sagely offers no opinion on this.
>
> Observe that neither HDAS nor OED find  early exx. that say, "called
> _coppers_ because of the large copper badges worn upon their breasts."
>
> If the familiar "cop," v., had not been the obvious presumptive ety., I'd
> expect to see an explicit explanation otherwise before the term became
> thoroughly familiar.
>
> Of course, if some mute inglorious Runyon had decided to call police
> "coppers" because of their badges (and because he'd never heard the v.
> _cop_), most of his admiring associates would presumably have assumed that
> the verb was the true etymon.
>
> As would most everybody else, unless advised to the contrary.
>
> Ockham's billy suggests the verb is the more likely culprit (or as we say
> today, "perp" < "perpetual criminal.")
>
> Lighter's Law: The most colorful non-ludicrous etymology will always
> recommend itself.
>
> JL
>
>
>
>
> On Thu, Jul 6, 2017 at 9:26 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu>
> wrote:
>
> > From a review in the NYTBR of a new history of the New York Police
> > Department:
> >
> > ============
> > https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/28/books/review/law-and-
> > disorder-nypd-bruce-chadwick.html
> >
> > Chadwick can be sloppy in his word choices. Early on he uses the
> > descriptions “cops” and constables interchangeably, but then explains
> that
> > the term “cop” was born later, when police officers got copper badges.
> > ===========
> > This suggests that author Chadwick and/or reviewer Jamieson assume that
> > “cop” in fact derives from NYPD (or other) constables’ wearing copper
> > badges.
> >
> > Now we know that the derivation of “cop” from “Constable On Patrol” is a
> > classic faux-acronymic etymythology, right up there with POSH, NEWS,
> GOLF,
> > WOG, and FUCK. But I always thought “cop” < “copper” was also generally
> > dismissed, and that the standard wisdom is that it’s a
> > conversion/zero-derivation from the verb “to cop” (‘take, capture, nab’).
> > At first glance it seems as though the OED seems to allow for both
> > possibilities, along with various cites going back to the 1840s and
> 1850s:
> >
> > Cop, n. 5
> > Etymology: Compare cop v.3 and copper n.4
> >
> > However, on closer examination, *this* “copper” is not the metal used in
> > badges (= copper n.1), but rather an agentive noun derived from the above
> > verb:
> >
> > Copper n.4
> > Etymology: apparently < cop v.3; but other conjectures have been offered.
> >
> > So that would mean a derivation along the lines of
> >
> > cop, v. ‘to seize’ > copper ‘one who cops’ > cop (by clipping)
> >
> > —which seems to suggest that the idea that “cop" has anything to do with
> > the copper in badges is indeed an etymythological reconstruction—or is
> it?
> > (The “other conjectures have offered” does leave the door open, to
> > something.)
> >
> > AHD5 supports the same two-stage derivation, verb to agentive noun to
> > truncated form:
> >
> > cop, v. >  copper ‘one who cops’ > cop, n.
> >
> > Can the derivation from copper badges be definitively rejected?  Is
> > current slang “copper” a remnant from the earlier noun—
> >
> > 1846   Sessions Papers 16 May 39   I have heard the police called coppers
> > before.
> >
> > (Seems like current “copper”, at least in the U.K., is used in the sense
> > of ‘informant’ rather than ‘police officer’, judging from the OED cites.)
> >
> > Does anyone else know more about the genealogy of “cop"?
> >
> > LH
> > ------------------------------------------------------------
> > The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
> >
>
>
>
> --
> "If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."
>
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>



-- 
-Wilson
-----
All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"---a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
-Mark Twain

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