Where did COP come from

Where did COP come from

This is a discussion on Where did COP come from within the Off Topic & Humor Discussion forums, part of the The Back Porch category; I was just wondering...where did the slang "cop" come from? Do LEOs see cop as an insult? I ran into a couple of off duty ...

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Thread: Where did COP come from

  1. #1
    Senior Member Array dunndw's Avatar
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    Where did COP come from

    I was just wondering...where did the slang "cop" come from?
    Do LEOs see cop as an insult?

    I ran into a couple of off duty LEOS at a gun show today. they didn't know each other at all. One started in with I hate blankety-blank cops...all I did was get naked and drunk in church last Sunday and now I'm some kind of crook.
    The other LEO looked at him with an expression of almost hurt feelings and trying not to laugh...then the joker showed him his badge.

    Just made me wonder how LEOs feel about cop. I called them LEOS and they had NO idea what I was talking about.
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    Last night I took an extremely crazy 17 year old chick to the juvey ward a few countys over. It took 3 jailers to get her in the car. She squalled like a mashed cat the whole 45 minute trip and never shut up. I knew it'd be interesting when one of the jailers offered me some Tylenol from his personal stash.

    I got called every name in the book and some I've have never heard before.
    "Cop" was even mentioned several times, with various adjectives before and after.

    I didn't care in the least.
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    Distinguished Member Array Chooie's Avatar
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    IIRC, the term "Cop" was shortened from "copper", a slang term first applied to the NYPD because of their badges made of copper in the mid 1800's.

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    Senior Member Array digitalexplr's Avatar
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    There is also the belief that "copper" and "cop" are from two intirely separate sources.

    "Copper" derived from the copper badges of the NYPD and "cop" from "constable on patrol" from various other parts of the country and from British Constables.

    Take your pick.

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    Senior Member Array stanislaskasava's Avatar
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    I don't think they would name the t.v. show 'COPS' if it was an insult.

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    My understanding it was derived from the British, shortening Constable On Patrol, thus COP.

    As far as the TV show, since when does the TV networks worry about someones feelings, their only concern is what their ratings are.

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    Senior Member Array hudsonvalley's Avatar
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    I've also heard that 'copper' were the men who worked under the Chief Of Police.

    As a possessive, belonging to the cop. But then again, grammer (and spelling) wernt my best subjects.
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    The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) indicates that the first appearance in print of the word "cop" referring to a police officer is in The Secret Language of Crime: The Rogue's Lexicon compiled by former New York City Police Chief, George Matsell, and published in 1859. Matsell and others of the time believed that cop was from ceap — Irish noun means “a protector, a leader, a chief”; Irish verb ceap seize, stop, catch, put into custody.

    I think if I were going to place my trust in any of the ideas of the origin of the word this would be the one I would choose. Matsell being closer to the original than any other source.
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    I'm going with dr cmg on this, or it at least sounds good. The Irish have a deep history in both LE and fire service, particularly in the eastern seaboard areas. (thats where it all started) It only makes sense that it comes from the native language of the immigrants who were doing the job.
    No, its not an insult...but it does make me chuckle when the ignorant try to use it as such, same with the term pig.
    Last edited by SIXTO; April 27th, 2008 at 09:53 AM.
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    Senior Member Array Scot Van's Avatar
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    Archer51 wins this one...Constable On Patrol is where it came from. Not to sound stuffy, but I'm a word genealogy geek, and I spent quite a bit of time a few years ago getting that straightened out. Anyone who wants to see the 'paper trail' on that can email me, but to summate, Archer had it right. It comes directly from Scotland Yard, and there is a clear path from the usage today to the origins (that is to say that 'cop' was used in the UK long before being employed in American vernacular).
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scot Van View Post
    Archer51 wins this one...Constable On Patrol is where it came from. Not to sound stuffy, but I'm a word genealogy geek, and I spent quite a bit of time a few years ago getting that straightened out. Anyone who wants to see the 'paper trail' on that can email me, but to summate, Archer had it right. It comes directly from Scotland Yard, and there is a clear path from the usage today to the origins (that is to say that 'cop' was used in the UK long before being employed in American vernacular).
    Scot, I have to disagree. The Oxford English Dictionary is published in Great Britain and it says that "cop" is an American term. It also says that is no evidence of an acronym for Constable on Patrol ever being used in England. It is a well established fact that of the few words that have come into the English language as acronyms almost all of them are mid to late twentieth century products. I have searched and have foun only a few in use today from the 19th century. Most of these are the almost inescapable ones like a.m., p.m., AD, and BC. OK is a word of disputed origin and may not be an acronym at all. One of the classic examples used by many etymologists as a false or folk etymology of a word is "cop" being derived from "Constable on Patrol." There may not be enough evidence to determine which story is right, but most lexicographers, linguistic morphologists, and etymologists agree that the "Constable on Patrol" idea is completely unfounded.

    It is also interesting to note that The Metropolitan Police Service, sometimes incorrectly referred to as Scotland Yard, in its official history never lists Constable on Patrol as one of its ranks. BTW Scotland Yard is the headquarters of the Met and is also used to refer to the detective department of the Metropolitan Police Service, but not to the Met itself. Constable on Patrol was a rank in some police services in Great Britain, but as far as I can determine not in London.

    Bobby is the London term for a policeman. From the OED Online:
    bobby
    1. (With capital initial.) Pet form of Bob, familiar perversion of Robert.

    2. [Hence probably in allusion to the name of Mr. (afterwards Sir) Robert Peel, who was Home Secretary when the new Metropolitan Police Act was passed in 1828.] A slang nickname for a policeman.
    George

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    Member Array barracudamagoo's Avatar
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    Dr. CMG, I agree with you. This is the explanation that I have heard to be correct. I believe good ol' snopes has an article somewhere that covers this topic.

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    Senior Member Array Sergeant Mac's Avatar
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    I've never considered it to be insulting.

    Likewise, some of my guys have become upset when people have addressed me as "Officer ______" (rather than "Sergeant _____"), but that doesn't bother me either. I AM, in fact, a police officer.....just one who has been promoted to Sergeant.

    The simple fact that I have been assigned new responsibilities doesn't diminish the old ones. It's an addition, not a substitution.

    Ironically, all of the transients/bums/homeless persons that I have encountered seem to recognize the stripes on my sleeve.....

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    FWIW -- Columns Posted 1/21/97 has the following:

    ... the most commonly-heard theories trace "cop" or"copper" meaning "police" to copper buttons worn on early police uniforms, or to copper police badges supposedly issued in some cities, but there is no convincing evidence for any of this. Still other theories explain "cop" as an acronym, standing for "Constable On Patrol," "Chief of Police" or other such phrases. But these "acronym" theories bear all the hallmarks of being spurious after-the-fact explanations invented to explain "cop." Among other sticky details is the fact that acronyms were virtually unknown in English before the 20th century, while "cop" itself was well-established by the mid-19th century.

    To cut to the chase, the police sense of "copper" and "cop" probably comes originally from the Latin word "capere," meaning "to seize," which also gave us "capture." "Cop" as a slang term meaning "to catch, snatch or grab" appeared in English in the 18th century, ironically originally used among thieves -- a "copper" was a street thief. But by the middle of the 19th century, criminals apprehended by the police were said to have themselves been "copped" -- caught -- by the "coppers" or "cops." And there you have the etiology of "cop." Case, as the cops say, closed.
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    Interesting...
    Now...Where did "Cheese It Da Fuzz!" originate from?

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