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The cop

  1. Jun 22, 2009 #1
    Hi all,

    Why do they call a police officer a cop?
    (My first language is not English).
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 22, 2009 #2

    Community Oriented Policing Services
  4. Jun 22, 2009 #3
    My dictionary reads that it is short for copper, "One that regulates certain behaviors or actions." Maybe from the metal of their early badges?

    Or "Copper as slang for policeman is first found in print in 1846, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. The most likely explanation is that it comes from the verb "to cop" meaning to seize, capture, or snatch, dating from just over a century earlier (1704)."

    Here's a good discussion: http://www.wordwizard.com/phpbb3/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=6521

    Snopes covers it, too: http://www.snopes.com/language/acronyms/cop.asp
  5. Jun 22, 2009 #4


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    It'a an acronym...Constable On Patrol is what I've always heard it means.
  6. Jun 22, 2009 #5
  7. Jun 22, 2009 #6


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    That's what I heard its origin is as well, but I don't know where to look to verify it.
  8. Jun 22, 2009 #7
    Someone should just call the cops and ask.

    I did that with the fire station when I noticed the ambulances and fire trucks jingled every time they drove by. I asked them what that noise was, and they said it was the snow chains. Instead of actually wrapping the tires with chains, the chains fling themselves in rotary motion in front of the tires when the chains are engaged.

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  9. Jun 22, 2009 #8
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2009
  10. Jun 22, 2009 #9


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    Etymologies with acronyms are almost always wrong. Acronyms were very rare before WWII except in the army.

    According to my OED it's from capture, the french (and latin) is caper
  11. Jun 22, 2009 #10
    Cyrus, you are spending Way too much time on YouTube... ;-)
  12. Jun 22, 2009 #11
    Hahahaahaha......maybe. :redface:
  13. Jun 22, 2009 #12


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    Lots of neat theories there, but the truth is... English Bobbies had copper buttons on their uniforms. Hence the term 'coppers', which was then shortened to 'cops'.
  14. Jun 22, 2009 #13
    Because of the reason a cop is called a police officer.
  15. Jun 23, 2009 #14
    Obviously because they drive cop cars.
  16. Jun 23, 2009 #15


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    Yes. And even in the military acronym etymologies are rare before the 20th century.
  17. Jun 23, 2009 #16
    I heard the idea relatively recently that it comes from the word "cop- to take". The source also seemed to indicate it was somewhat derogatory primarily refering to crooked cops who had a tendency to shake down "suspects" specifically to take their possessions.

    Unfortunately I don't remember the source.
  18. Jun 23, 2009 #17


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    M-W concurs:
    (The Merriam-Webster New Book of Word Histories, p. 120) This is about a quarter or a third of the entry, but you get the idea.
  19. Jun 23, 2009 #18
    Hmm in Dutch 'catch' includes the synonym 'pak' which was 'pack' in the 16th century, (also vang, grijp (grab), neem (take)). Can't find anything closer than that.

    Dutch historic slang for a police officer includes the 'klabak' possibly related to 'klebak'- related to 'kelef' - dog. 'Klabakken' (verb) however is slang for drifting about/knocking around or what cops do.

    "Cop" in Dutch is rarely used, apparantly borrowed from Turkish meaning 'stick', as in weapon stick.
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