A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from June 04, 2006
Cop (“copper” badge myth)
"Cop" (policeman) probably comes from "cop," meaning to "nab" a suspect.

One myth suggests that "cop" comes from "Constable On Patrol." This has no factual basis.

Another myth suggests that "cop" comes from "copper," the copper badge that the police wore. (See the 1976 article, below.) Again, there is no factual basis for this.

"Criminal On Patrol" (for an unethical cop) is a backronym (back acronym) of "cop" that became popular after 2010.

(Oxford English Dictionary)
cop, v.
north. dial. and slang.
[Perh. a broad pronunciation of CAP v.2 (OF. caper to seize); in nearly all North Eng. glossaries; and now of general diffusion in the slang of schoolboys, criminals, policemen, etc.]
a. trans. To capture, catch, lay hold of, 'nab'.

1704 E. WARD Dissenting Hyp. 30 If the Cruel Stork should come, He'd Tyrannize and Cop up some [Frogs]. 1844 tr. Eugene Sue's Myst. Paris III. xi, Waiting until the patrol should pass to commence my robbery..in order to be copped. 1868 Daily Tel. 7 Sept., The privileged driver, on dropping his fare..almost invariably 'cops' a job on his way back.

(Oxford English Dictionary)
cop, n.
[Cf. COP v.3 and COPPER4.]
A policeman. cops and robbers (orig. U.S.): a children's game in which 'police' hunt 'robbers'; also (? nonce-use) cops and thieves and transf.
1859 MATSELL Rogue's Lex. 124 (Farmer) Oh! where will be..all the cops and beaks so knowin' A hundred stretches hence?
1867 F. H. LUDLOW Brace of Boys 262 What's a cop?.. That's what the boys call a policeman.

(Oxford English Dictionary)
copper, n.
[app. f. COP v.3; but other conjectures have been offered.]
A policeman; also attrib., as in copperstick, a policeman's truncheon. Hence, one who informs on fellow prisoners; a police informant; esp. to come or turn copper.
1846 Sessions Papers 16 May 39, I have heard the police called coppers before.
1859 MATSELL Rogue's Lex. 21 (Farmer).

30 September 1883, Boston Daily Globe, pg. 12:
Somebody wanted to know how policemen ever came to be called "cops." The term originated in New York, and was first given to the police force under Mayor Fernando Wood, from the copper badgers which they wore. It was not long before the dictionary of thieves' slang was enriched by a new word, "coppers."

25 February 1954, Chicago Daily Tribune, letter by Walter X. Klauser, pg. 14:
The commonly used term "cop" is not a term of degradation or disrespect for our law enforcement officers. Instead, it is a contraction of "constable on patrol." Years ago before we had large city developments, the law enforcing officers were called constables. Often, these officers would leave notices for minor infractions of the law by storekeepers and townspeople in the violators' mail box; these notices being signed "cop." It was a common query among the townspeople and the constables themselves, "Who is the "cop" tonight?"

4 March 1976, Wall Street Journal, pg. 1+:
The New York City Police Museum proudly claims that its 1845 copper badge was the origin of the slang terms "cop" and "copper," although both Webster's New International Dictionary and the Dictionary of American Slang suggest different derivations. This doesn't bother Detective Alfred Young, the museum curator, who has his own scholarly sources to back him up. "Whenever someone tells me they heard a different explanation, I always ask for their sources," he says. "I haven't been convinced yet."

3 March 1995, New York Times, pg. C16:
Still, the curator, John Podracky, a bearded man with a long memory for department history, likes to meet visitors. During a recent visit, Mr. Podracky pointed at an antique brown badge and gave an impromptu discourse on the etymology of "cop," a word derived either from copper shields or from the title of constable of police.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityWorkers/People • Sunday, June 04, 2006 • Permalink

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