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Interesting Origins of Police Words

Interesting Origins of Police Words

By Mignon Fogarty

March 11, 2010

If Only Graffito Were as Nice as Gelato

Who knew? Graffiti is the plural of the Italian word graffito, which means “an inscription or design.” It comes from a Latin word meaning “to write, scratch, or scribble.” In English, graffiti can be either singular or plural. You won’t hear graffito much around the station; archaeologists do use it, however, to describe a drawing or writing they find on ruins.

Hop in the Paddy Wagon

The term paddy wagon originated in the 1930s and is thought to come from the nickname for people of Irish descent: paddies. At the time, many police officers were Irishmen. Paddy itself is a nickname for Patrick.

Where Did Cop Come From?

Interestingly, cop can be both a noun meaning police officer and a verb meaning “to steal, take, or seize”: The kid copped a piece of candy. The origin is uncertain. The current meanings may be derived from the Latin word for “catch, seize, or capture”: capere. The “police” meaning is thought to have originated in America the 1850s.

As Clear as the Snitch on Your Face

To call someone a snitch can mean they are an informer or a thief. The “tattletale” meaning came first, originating around 1785, and the “pilfer” meaning came later, around 1900. In the crime world, “snitch” was slang for “nose,” and some sources believe that the “nose” meaning was the inspiration for the “informer” meaning. The “stealing” meaning may be a derivative of snatch, which itself comes from a Dutch word for “grasp or desire.”

Grammar Tip: Your Fellow Plurals

When you’re making compound nouns plural, the rule is to make the most important word plural:

• Deputy sheriffs • Attorneys general

Mignon Fogarty is the author of the New York Times bestseller Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing. She also produces a free Grammar Girl podcast on iTunes and a free daily e-mail newsletter that can be found at http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com.


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  • Me_5_max50

    Butch2760

    over 4 years ago

    746 Comments

    COP is said to be an acronym for "Constable On Patrol," ergo "COP."

  • Me_jan_2011_max50

    Chuck007

    over 4 years ago

    42 Comments

    This is all very interesting, and I have heard all these explanations before, but I agree with Eleni. http://www.snopes.com/language/acronyms/cop.asp

  • Hpim0324_max50

    boritico

    over 4 years ago

    928 Comments

    Way to go Frank.....

  • 100_0440_1__max600_max50

    mark27dh

    over 4 years ago

    980 Comments

    I have some words that I hear alot out here in the streets that I want to know where they came from but I dont want to get introuble by PL : )

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Anonymous

    over 4 years ago

    I always believed the word 'cop' to be a reference to the old copper buttons as Police_Dad said & had not heard that it is derived from the Latin capere. FWIW, after reading this article I pulled out my old police administration text for more information only to find that the word 'cop' is not specifically defined nor is it indexed in the book. Interesting...

  • Fa03_max50

    FAbano

    over 4 years ago

    82 Comments

    THATS SOMETHING NEW TO LEARN ABOUT . INTERESTING

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Anonymous

    over 4 years ago

    COP means Constable On Patrol.

    It comes from the way NYPD Officers from the begining and up the 1800's used to sign the Memo Book at the EOT... (End Of Tour)

    They keep mixing in it up with Copper... Which is nothing but Element 29 of the Periodic Table...
    With Atomic Weight 63.546+- 29 Electrons and Protons, (to be electrically neutral) and belonging to the Metals... (LOL...>>>)
    COP have nothing to do with the London Constables...

    LOL...>>>>

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Anonymous

    over 4 years ago

    Howiethecop got it right. Sir Robert Peel's men used to wear coats with large copper buttons. They were subsequently called "Coppers" which later shortened to the term we now know, "cop".

  • Fidel_pd_uniform_shot_max50

    Oncethere2506

    over 4 years ago

    274 Comments

    Sir Robert Peel, who created the first modern police force in England used Cooper Badges to identify the officers. Another possible meaning as stated earlier is "Constable on Patrol."

  • Sherlock_max50

    shadow7d

    almost 5 years ago

    2 Comments

    I was taught the same...copper and constable on patrol

  • Lt

    dickinson_603_wpd

    about 5 years ago

    20 Comments

    I was told in school that New Yory PD Officers were called coppers because they had copper badges in the 1800s and it was shortened to COPS

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Anonymous

    about 5 years ago

    I aggree with Joksta2000.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Paladin190

    about 5 years ago

    2 Comments

    I've always heard that the origin of the "cop" came from when we were called constables and it's an abbreviation for "Constable On Patrol".......

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    justinmercier13

    about 5 years ago

    120 Comments

    word

  • 14600_10200352713679693_171098802_n_max50

    ImpdsAngel

    about 5 years ago

    3140 Comments

    Interesting very very Interesting =)

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