Another Irish Cop

Daniel Cassidy DanCas1 at AOL.COM
Sun Dec 12 20:16:04 UTC 2004


Cop, Copper
Ceap, Ceapadh     (sounds like  cop, copper; dh = h )
To stop, capture, catch, seize, control; (act  of) restraining, binding; 
(act of) putting into stocks or restraints. (Dineen, p.  179)
Ceap in Irish means "to seize or grab" as well as "to capture,  control, and 
"lock up."  
You can ceap (cop) an idea, a drink, or "a feel." 
Belle is a young prostitute in O'Neill's  1930s comedy, Ah Wilderness.  
BELLE: “He’s copped a fine skinful and gee, he’s hardly  had anything.” 
(Ah Wilderness, p. 73) 
Yank, a Brooklyn Irish merchant seaman and coal stoker, is the  key 
protagonist in two of O'Neill's early plays of the sea  The Moon of the Caribees, 1918, 
 and The Hairy Ape.  1922.   

YANK (blinking at them): “What the hell – oh, it’s you, Smitty the  Duke. I 
was goin’ to turn one loose on the jaw of any guy’d cop my dame, but seein’ it
’s you – (sentimentally) Pals is pals  and any pal of mine c’n have anythin’
 I got, see?”  (O'Neill, The Moon  of the Caribees, p. 540. {1918})  
In American "slang," the verbal Cop (Ceap, to seize) shape shifts to  the 
noun “Copper” (fig. "a seizer") meaning "a cop."  

ROCKY: “...Dey’re all licked. I couldn’t help feelin’ sorry for de poor  
bums when dey showed up tonight...Jimmy Tomorrow was de last. Schwartz, de 
copper, brung him in. Seen him sittin’ on de dock on  West Street, lookin’ at de 
water and cryin’.”  (O'Neill, The Iceman  Cometh, pp. 698-699) 
Rocky the bartender and part time pimp fixes cops and coppers.
ROCKY: “Dem tarts, Margie and Poil, dey’re just a side line to pick up some  
extra dough. Strictly business, like dey was fighters and I was deir manager, 
 see? I fix the cops for dem so dey can hustle widout  gettin’ pinched.”  
(Eugene O'Neill, The Iceman Cometh, p.  580).

Do you Ceap (Catch) what Rocky's saying? Pimps fix cops with  dough.
Etymological Anglophile "Echo  Chambers"
Most dictionaries repeat the wing-nut tale that Copper  and Cop are derived 
from the “copper badges" worn by police officers  in the U.S. in the 19th 
century.  There is no evidence that  police departments in the U.S. ever issued 
copper badges to police  officers. 
“Cop” as a slang term meaning to “seize or catch,” first appears in English 
 "slang" dictionaries in the 18th and early 19th  centuries.  Originally a 
"copper" was a thief who “copped” (ceap'd)  purses and valuables. Later, in 
London Irish slum (saol  luim) slang when a thief was apprehended by the police, 
they were said  to have been “copped” (seized, put into stocks).
The Irish word Ceap, meaning "to catch, stop, or bind" is  derived from Old 
Irish Cepp and cognate with Welsh cyff,  Breton cyff, Latin cippus. (MacBain’s 
Gaelic  Etymological Dictionary, 1982, Glasgow.) 
One of these days Irish Americans will "ceap" (grasp  that Irish and 
Scots-Gaelic is under their tongue. 
Daniel Cassidy
The Irish Studies Program
New College of California
San Francisco

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