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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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    avis_638

    about 5 years ago

    594 Comments

    Pretty cool!

  • 1393794_10151798561878138_392793313_n_max50

    Blueblood1974

    about 5 years ago

    5204 Comments

    lolnice!

  • 004_max50

    akeribear

    about 5 years ago

    2286 Comments

    And here I thought it was Attorney Generals this whole time.

  • Tim-gun_max50

    greenwood

    about 5 years ago

    162 Comments

    Okay.......what wise @$$ thinks an attorney is more important than a general? Liberal b@$t@rds!!!

  • Owned_max600_max50

    Dustin121666

    about 5 years ago

    154 Comments

    I learned a few things.. but still very interesting indeed.

  • Anonymous-killer-whale-232189_1__max50

    Whalewatcher

    about 5 years ago

    11194 Comments

    A fun read, and I got to learn something new !!

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    Omarra67

    about 5 years ago

    2284 Comments

    Very interesting!

  • Pug_max600_max50

    DALLASCRANE

    about 5 years ago

    19382 Comments

    The British used the copper pence, tupence (2), trepence (3) to make early badges. The original Texas Ranger badges were from Mexican silver coins. The Patty Wagon. The expression "Who's your Patty (Daddy)" referring to an Irish father.

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    Kath

    about 5 years ago

    1812 Comments

    That was an interesting read

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    d23navy

    about 5 years ago

    2 Comments

    I heard that cop came from the copper buttons that use to be on the old old old uniforms that cops wore thats where the nickname ''copper'' came from....which was shortened to Cop!!!

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    bluelinefarms

    about 5 years ago

    310 Comments

    COP also stand for the badges officers wear, some still are but the majority of older badges were made from copper

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    snowman

    about 5 years ago

    12 Comments

    Yes the word COP did come from Constable On Patrol,, fplasencia You are correct

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    Anonymous

    about 5 years ago

    Interesting, completely useless information- my favorite kind! It's always neat to learn where & how things got started!

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Anonymous

    about 5 years ago

    Trust me on this one guys...
    If I remember correctly, is even a Sheet on the Patrol Guide somewhere....

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Anonymous

    about 5 years ago

    Great article...! Thumbs up...!

    NO, No, No....
    I they had it all WRONG on this one.

    The word "COP" comes, for all I know from the way Police Officers in NY used to sign their memo book (yes, that big thing we all carry in the back packet with the tickets, radio codes, final dispositions and memo sheets- COP = Constable On Patrol.
    They had it all WRONG on this one.

    In those days, NY Police Officers used to sign the Memo Book and Write C.O.P. after their name.

    Also, I just have to add:
    We now called "Party Wagon" most of the time, as a joke, for "Joint the Party" to prisoners.

    Chiefmillian: Great...!!! You should come to NY more often...!!!

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