copasetic, was Re: [ADS-L] Readex Newspapers

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Sat Jan 16 14:01:33 UTC 2010

I, along with many others, searched for copasetic (and copesetic, copacetic,
copecetic, kopasetee and so on) but have found nothing published before 1919,
claimed memories notwithstanding.

Searching included some use of Anatoly Liberman's helpful new A
Bibliography of
English Etymology (U. of Minnesota Press, 2010).

One Google Books result I hadn't seen before is Michael Gold, "Hoboken
Blues, or
the Black Rip van Winkle" in The American Caravan, volume 1 (NY, 1927)
[confirmed in a paper copy]

Dat's copesetic, Barney; wow. (Cuts a caper.)

Ee-yah, copesetic!

Ain't it copesetic? (He stops in full flight for a second, looking at her for

Say, won't factories be jes copesetic?

My hypotheses (detailed in the ads-l archives) is that Irving
Bacheller, author
of the widely-read A Man for the Ages (1919) coined the word. It was then
picked up in African American use (especially, early on, in New York).

So, Fred, yes, please, search African-African newspapers for copasetic
(et sim.)
as a test of the hypothesis. Thanks.

The hypothesis can easily be falsified. I wonder, at what point (possible
continued) negative pre-1919 results, along with the positive arguments (e.g.,
the way Bacheller introduced and used copasetic, as well as coralapus) might
lead to acceptance?

Stephen Goranson

Quoting "Shapiro, Fred" <fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU>:

> I have temporary access to the full range of Readex newspapers and
> African-American newspapers.  If anyone has any terms or phrases they
> want me to search, please let me know and I'll try my best.
> Fred Shapiro
> ________________________________________
> From: American Dialect Society [ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of
> Joel S. Berson [Berson at ATT.NET]
> Sent: Tuesday, January 12, 2010 2:13 PM
> Subject: "African American Newspapers, 1827-1998"
> There appears to be a new offering via the New England Historic
> Genealogical Society out of Readex's Archive of America (at least I
> hadn't noticed it before today).  Listed now in addition to
> "America's Historical Newspapers" [the NEHGS only subscribes to"Early
> American Newspapers, Series 1, 1690-1876"] is "African American
> Newspapers, 1827-1998".

The American Dialect Society -

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