cops/donuts meme

Dave Wilton dave at WILTON.NET
Mon May 14 14:49:58 UTC 2007

Coffee and doughnuts were also associated with the USO serving troops during

I'd add to the "quick snack" idea. Many cops work at night and in many
locales the only place that is open late into the night is the donut shop.
Or the donut shop is the first place to open early in the morning, and the
cops on-duty show up having not had anything to eat for some hours. The
habit of going to the donut shop would stick with them when they rotate onto
the day shift.

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of
Landau, James
Sent: Monday, May 14, 2007 6:47 AM
Subject: Re: cops/donuts meme

Here's a somewhat tangential answer:  organized fire buffs have been
showing up at fires and serving coffee and doughnuts to firefighters
since at least circa 1960 when I first became aware of the practice (in
an otherwise forgotten detective novel).  I'm sure that if you check
some historical references on firefighting in the US, you will find
mention of coffee and doughnuts.

Why coffee?  Because it keeps you awake and feeling energetic.

Why doughnuts?  Because they are stereotyped as a working man's food,
not in the sense of lower class workers but in the sense of a man, any
social class, with a job to do.  Consider a laborer in the middle of a
job who wants a sugar rush.  If he asks for candy he'll sound sissy.  If
he asks for a French pastry he'll get laughed at.  But asking for a
doughnut is macho (but not male chauvinistic; genteel women can also eat
doughnuts in public).

So this leaves us with the question of how the doughnut became the
universal US high-sugar food.  Barry?

What about cops and doughnuts?  Consider that truck drivers are also
stereotyped as coffee-and-doughnut eaters.  What happens here is that
when a man (or a woman for that matter) is in the middle of a job and
takes a quick snack break, he (or she) can always order doughnuts
without gettting stared at.  Hence it is not just cops, it is anybody
who has to eat a quick meal in the middle of a job.

Now for a chicken-and-egg question:  which came first, the demand for
doughnuts as fast food, or the practice of pre-McDonald's eat-and-go
places having doughnuts for sale?

    - Jim Landau

-----Original Message-----
From: Sam Clements [mailto:SClements at NEO.RR.COM]
Sent: Sunday, May 13, 2007 9:48 PM
Subject: cops/donuts meme

Can anyone cite a historic reference to when the police started to be
associated with donuts?  Is this an invention of the 1960's?

Sam Clements

The American Dialect Society -

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