Is this a load of buanchumadh?

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Lapsed Moderator
English-Ireland (top end)
American slang is etymologically Irish.
Well, according to last week's Sunday Times some of it is.

For example:
Jazz: from teas, meaning heat, warmth, passion, enthusiasm. The common adjective associated with jazz is “hot”.

Fluke: Fo-luach — fo a prefix meaning below, occasional, rare; luach value, result, reward.

Sucker: sach ur — sach a well-fed person; ur new, fresh, tender.

Cop: ceap — Irish noun means “a protector, a leader, a chief”; Irish verb ceap seize, stop, catch, put into custody.

  • cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    Before AE is re-colonized, please note the final paragraph of the ariticle, which is a rebuttal by an academic:

    It’s a good idea, but I fear much of his sourcing is unconvincing, and there may be an element of trying to fit the facts to the theory rather than vice versa. The Irish have been emigrating to England for 1,000 years, and the number of Irish-derived words in English is very small, despite that lengthy exposure.”
    The common adjectives associated with Jazz are hot, cool, straight ahead, traditional, West Coast, free, fifties, sixties, Kansas City, New Orleans, and Latin.

    Still, it's an interesting article, and there's probably a good deal of truth to it.

    The prison population data for 1859 is a strong indicator that
    Irish terms influenced US slang. Much slang comes from the streets and prisons.


    panjandrum said:
    Cop: ceap — Irish noun means “a protector, a leader, a chief”; Irish verb ceap seize, stop, catch, put into custody.
    My initial reaction to this is that the wrong meaning of 'cop' has been taken.
    Among other things* ceap means 'concieve, think' and I would imagine that it could have lead to "cop on" as in both "to understand" and "to have an awareness".

    * Among the other things which ceap means I can find no reference in my Irish—>English dictionary Foclóir Gaeilge-Béarla by Ó Dónaill, nor in my English-Irish Dictionary by Tomás de Bhaldraithe


    Senior Member
    USA English
    My understanding is that "cop" is derived from the copper buttons they used to wear on their coats. This may be apocryphal, though. You do tend to hear the form "copper" in '30s gangster movie slang.

    And this etymology of "jazz" seems more logical to me than Irish immigrants in New Orleans.

    In fact, now that I've gotten the idea to check this etymologyonline site:
    "sucker" as an unweaned and hence gullible animal also seems pretty rational.

    It's Internet information, though, so use your best judgement.

    . 1

    Australian Australia
    I may well be wrong and this is not an unusual position for me but I will offer my opinion as to the origins of 'cop'.

    I believe that it is of the same etymology as cope meaning 'to deal with' and comes from Old French coper and originally meant 'hit or punch'. The Old French verb was a derivitave of the noun cop meaning 'blow' which is in turn a variant of colp (from which modern French gets coup which entered English in the 18th century). This came from medieval Latin colpus and Latin colaphus from Greek kolaphos meaning 'blow or punch'. The modern English sense of the verb developed via 'come to blows with' and 'contend with' to 'handle successfully'.

    Cop this.

    This gives me the flavour of the descriptive of a group of people who are required to resort to physical control on a regular basis.

    Just my two coppers worth.
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