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Where'd the word "Cops" originate??
#1
Bit of trivia... Ever wonder where the slang word "cops" for policemen came from?  

By accident I heard about it on a video of early 1800's gangs of New York.  Seems the first NYC officers wore badges made of copper.  Thus the term "copper" shortened to cops.

Learn something everyday, whether I try or not Smile
Bob
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#2
i always heard it was an acronym of british origin - constable on patrol
but who really knows
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BobBski (07-17-2017)
#3
I always knew it as a shortened version of "copper," but the etymology had nothing to do with the badge (badges were usually made of tin, I thought).  The term started in Britain, not NYC - and I know they still use the term "copper" in England, because of some DVDs of modern English crime dramas I have.

I looked it up.

From Wikipedia:
Cop, Coppa or Copper
The term copper was the original, unshortened word, originally used in Britain to mean "someone who captures". In British English, the term cop is recorded (Shorter Oxford Dictionary) in the sense of 'to capture' from 1704, derived from the Latin capere via the Old French caper.  There is a common but mistaken belief that it refers to the police uniform's buttons or badge being made of copper.

From http://orvillejenkins.com/words/cops.html:
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins

Question:
Why are Police Called Cops?

Answer:
Some have proposed that the reason police officers are called "cops" is because of the New York force's copper badges.  The source of this word is much earlier.  Several sources say the usages originated in Northern England.

The word "cop" is an old Anglo-Saxon verb for catch, grab or capture, deriving from a noun "cop" dating back at least to the 1100s.  Some sources say this word related to the Dutch word kapen, with a similar meaning.  The earliest written documentation of the form "cop" as a verb in English dates to 1704.

A new noun form developed form this verb, giving us "copper."  This form "copper" thus was the noun for "one who cops."  Some sources document the use of the verb "cop" used with the meaning "arrest" in 1844, and suggests this was the source of the specific use of "cop" to refer to a law officer.

The term "copper" was originally used in England as a slang word for a police officer.  This term was used, however, as a term of abuse by criminals, especially petty street criminals.  It was considered highly derogatory by the police themselves.  It was made illegal in England to use this term for a police officer, because it was so derogatory.

The term became associated with the metal copper after that law was passed, when those hoods who wanted to abuse an officer would carry a small piece of copper metal in the palm of their hand, then flash it at the policeman.  This usage of "copper" got shortened to "cop."  The first documented use of the term copper for a police officer is in 1846.  The Oxford English Dictionary documents this usage.  Most sources report that the first documented use of the short form cop as applied to a police officer is in 1859.  Snopes finds that the term "copper" was used in London for police by 1846.

Even when I was a child in the US in the 1950s, though not illegal, it was still considered impolite to call a policeman a cop.  We were taught it was only the bad boys who feared being caught by the police that called policemen cops.  (It is only in comparatively recent history that police themselves have accepted and used the word for themselves.)


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So, yeah, that all makes sense to me.  When you "cop" something, you capture it, in a sense. When I was a teenager in the '70s, we used to say "cop a squat" to mean "grab a seat." A copper is one who cops.
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BobBski (07-17-2017)
#4
Hm...I always heard "Constable on Patrol", ^^^but it seems you're right. Just checking further...Snopes says: http://www.snopes.com/language/acronyms/cop.asp

"Instead, the police-specific use of “cop” made its way into the English language in far more languid fashion. “Cop” has long existed as a verb meaning “to take or seize,” but it didn’t begin to make the linguistic shifts necessary to turn it into a casual term for “police officer” until the mid-19th century. The first example of ‘cop’ taking the meaning “to arrest” appeared in print around 1844, and the word then swiftly moved from being solely a verb for “take into police custody” to also encompassing a noun referring to the one doing the detaining. By 1846, policemen were being described as “coppers,” the ‘-er’ ending having been appended to the “arrest” form of the verb, and by 1859 “coppers” were also being called “cops,” the latter word a shortening of the former."
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BobBski (07-17-2017)
#5
Yeah their are several thoughts on the origination, just heard this on a History channel video last night.

Their badges were copper not tin...
New York Post article "And so, in the summer of 1845, what would become the most famous law-enforcement body in the world was created to keep the peace: the NYPD, a motley collection of non-uniformed “star police” with copper emblems pinned to their breasts."
Bob
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#6
(07-17-2017, 10:05 AM)BobBski Wrote: Yeah their are several thoughts on the origination, just heard this on a History channel video last night.

Their badges were copper not tin...
New York Post article "And so, in the summer of 1845, what would become the most famous law-enforcement body in the world was created to keep the peace: the NYPD, a motley collection of non-uniformed “star police” with copper emblems pinned to their breasts."

When I said tin, I was thinking of badges in general, like for sheriffs and police in rural places or small cities, not NYC.  I doubt that police forces everywhere used copper badges.  But calling police officers copper and cop came from England, anyway, and NYC just followed suit.
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BobBski (07-17-2017)
#7
(07-17-2017, 09:06 AM)BobBski Wrote:  Seems the first NYC officers wore badges made of copper.  Thus the term "copper" shortened to cops.



I've heard that version too.  Another story I recall hearing is that it comes from the verb "to cop", meaning "to catch".

Living in "Ziggy the Snail Shell" since May 2015
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BobBski (07-17-2017)
#8
it wasn't copper badges it was copper buttons all over the uniforms ( I was a cop and they felt we needed to know the reason)

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#9
Thank you for your service jlivings


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#10
Strange there are so many back stories on this. I'd heard it was due to copper on police hats in old time Britain, and so they were first called "copper tops," and then "coppers," and finally just "cops."
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