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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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    chozen126

    about 5 years ago

    2 Comments

    I always wondered were cop came from! Nice!

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    KSUMABikeCop

    about 5 years ago

    12 Comments

    COP also is an acronym for "Constable On Patrol"; which comes from the old english history of law enforfocement.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    howiethecop

    about 5 years ago

    6 Comments

    I was told many years ago that; "Cop" came from the many copper buttons on the old New York 'Cop's" coat. They were first called 'Copper' later shortened to 'Cop'.
    Howard D. Wheale, Retired (C.O.P.) Chief of Police, Midway Island, Hi.

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    P89Hydra

    about 5 years ago

    740 Comments

    Interesting.

  • Iphone_pics_014_max50

    rebel911wi

    about 5 years ago

    450 Comments

    Hmm ok

  • Telecommunicator_rusch_max50

    PGPD911

    about 5 years ago

    6672 Comments

    Gee, you learn something new every day! LOL

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Anonymous

    about 5 years ago

    interesting

  • Gusporch_max50

    jwc6617

    about 5 years ago

    28 Comments

    Hey DNelson4817
    All words came from Greece, right?! I saw that movie a few years back. It must be true! Good job!
    LOL inTexas

    ________________________________________________________________
    DNelson4817

    POLICE comes via French "Policier" from the Latin politia ("civil administration"), which itself derives from the ancient Greek πόλις ("city")

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    constable43

    about 5 years ago

    188 Comments

    I am a constable, trust me ... Constable On Patrol.

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    constable43

    about 5 years ago

    188 Comments

    Constable On Patrole COP

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    colinreid

    about 5 years ago

    2 Comments

    That's how I read it in CJ classes. The term "copper" came from the copper buttons and badges- then was shortened to "cops". It started in England and became popular after the term "bobbies" lost popularity.

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    j0ksta2000

    about 5 years ago

    932 Comments

    I Thought " COP " came from the term " copper " which was slang because of back in the day the Badges were made of copper? kinda like flat foot, came before our beloved squad cars? or am i wrong?

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    buck

    about 5 years ago

    1290 Comments

    I agree with aldridgekb the badges and buttons worn on the uniforms of the officers in new york

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    Anonymous

    about 5 years ago

    In response to jworrell: Fuzz is a reference to the sound that early model police radios made. The crooks could actually hear the fuzz on the radio coming before they physical saw the officer.

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    aldridgekb

    about 5 years ago

    22 Comments

    with aussieleo.....i think "COP" also came from the copper badges that law enforcement used to wear.....also sheriff is derived from the Shire Reeves of England....they were in charge of keeping order in the counties of england...and they were appointed by the land owners.

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