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

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Sun Jan 17 00:01:59 UTC 2010

Stephen writes:

"[_Copasetic_] was then picked up in African American use (especially,
early on, in New York)."

Does anyone have any idea of how this picking-up occurred?


On Sat, Jan 16, 2010 at 9:01 AM, Stephen Goranson <goranson at> wrote:
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Stephen Goranson <goranson at DUKE.EDU>
> Subject:      copasetic, was Re: [ADS-L] Readex Newspapers
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> 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)
> 548-626.
> [confirmed in a paper copy]
> p.572
> Dat's copesetic, Barney; wow. (Cuts a caper.)
> p.579
> Ee-yah, copesetic!
> p.580
> Ain't it copesetic? (He stops in full flight for a second, looking at her for
> approval.)
> p.602
> 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".
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