Why are policemen called cops?

May 28, 2017 | Author: | Posted in General Knowledge

Cop as applied to policemen is believed to be derived from the old English verb to cop, meaning to catch, to get hold of, to nab. This meaning of cop survives in the slang expression to cop off, which signifies to grab or to make away with something sought by others. In England a policeman is still often called a copper, that is, one who cops or catches offenders.

According to the New English dictionary, cop was applied to policemen as early as 1859. The verb cop itself has been traced back in English dialect to the seventeenth century. The theory that cop was originally the abbreviation of constabulary of police is unsupported by evidence.

There is, however, another theory that perhaps deserves mention. In 1829 Sir Robert Peel, who established the Irish and English constabularies of police, organized the first modern police in London. Members of Peel’s police force were dressed in blue uniforms with large copper buttons. These conspicuous copper buttons, it is said, gave the police the name copper, which has been shortened into cop. London policemen are still called peelers and bobbies after Sir Robert Peel, who was affectionately known as “Bobby” Peel.

Still another theory is that copper was first applied to policemen in 1858 in Chicago when the mayor of that city was John C. Haines, who was nicknamed “Copper-Stock” because of his spectacular plunges in the copper market. Under Mayor Haines the Chicago police were issued uniforms consisting of a short blue frock coat on which a plain brass star was substituted for the former leather rnedal. This uniform was jokingly called the “copper-stock coat” and the wearers coppers. But this is pure speculation and improbable.

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