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"COP," "FUZZ," and "PIG" Explained

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  • "COP," "FUZZ," and "PIG" Explained

    Since the terms, especially "PIG," have been the subject of discussion here, it is often helpful to understand the etymology (origins) of the words:

    From your friendly, neighborhood English major/writer:

    (Remember, etymology is NOT an exact science.)

    COP: Cop the noun is almost certainly a shortening of copper, which in turn derives from cop the verb. Copper as slang for policeman is first found in print in 1846, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. The most likely explanation is that it comes from the verb "to cop" meaning to seize, capture, or snatch, dating from just over a century earlier (1704). As with many words, there are several stories floating around positing various origins, almost certainly false. The notion that cop is an acronym for "Constable On Patrol" is nonsense. Similarly, the word did not arise because police uniforms in New York (or London or wherever) had copper buttons, copper badges, or anything of the sort.

    FUZZ: The origin of "fuzz" is uncertain. The expression arose in America in the late 1920s and early 1930s, probably in the criminal underworld. It never quite replaced cop. There are several theories about the origin of "fuzz":

    -- American Tramp and Underworld Slang, published in 1931, suggests that "fuzz" was derived from "fuss," meaning that the cops were "fussy" over trifles.
    -- A mispronunciation or mishearing of the warning "Feds!" (Federal agents). This seems unlikely.
    -- Etymologist Eric Partridge wonders if "fuzz" might have come from the beards of early police officers. This also seems improbable.
    -- Evan Morris suggests the word "arose as a term of contempt for police based on the use of 'fuzz' or 'fuzzy' in other items of derogatory criminal slang of the period. To be 'fuzzy' was to be unmanly, incompetent and soft. How better to insult the police, after all, than to mock them as ineffectual?" That explanation seems as good as any, and better than most.
    -- This slang term may be in reference to the sound of the field radios that police commonly use. It surfaced in Britain in the 1960s.

    PIG: If you thought the term pig arose in the 1960s, you're in for a surprise. The Oxford English Dictionary cites an 1811 reference to a "pig" as a Bow Street Runner--the early police force, named after the location of their headquarters, before Sir Robert Peel and the Metropolitan Police Force. Before that, the term "pig" had been used as early as the mid-1500s to refer to a person who is heartily disliked. The usage was probably confined to the criminal classes until the 1960s, when it was taken up by protestors. False explanations for the term involve the gas masks worn by the riot police in that era, or the pigs in charge of George Orwell's Animal Farm.

    I know -- not an "Ask a Cop" question, but maybe it will help answer someone else's.
    If I tell you what I know, I'd have to kill you. Fortunately, I don't know much.

  • #2
    If you notice, "pig" is the ONLY one that was used exclusively as an insult from the very beginning. In fact, it was a pre-existing insult applied to officers from that specific department. I could find nothing to indicate actual farm animal-type pigs were raised or butchered anywhere on Bow Street, though it was back when records were somewhat iffy. So it's not like "COP" and "FUZZ," or "Flatfoot," or "Dick," all of which were shortenings or slang referring to a function or attribute of officers at the time the term came about.

    So that explains the long-standing LEO repulsion to being referred to in that manner.

    It's all the fault of the Brits, I tell you!!
    If I tell you what I know, I'd have to kill you. Fortunately, I don't know much.

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    • #3
      So who cares if we are called pigs? You learn to let it roll off your back. Conversely, how many mrembers of the public have we referred to as an anal orifice?
      Retired

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      • #4
        Originally posted by retired View Post
        So who cares if we are called pigs? You learn to let it roll off your back. Conversely, how many mrembers of the public have we referred to as an anal orifice?
        I get called that all the time. Of course, immediate family doesn't count...

        I think the times it would matter are times like the now-banned MrCP (I think?) rolling by a traffic stop and yelling to an officer whose attention should be on that stop and the surrounding traffic, not some wingnut exercising his First Amendment "rights." And I posted the definitions toward that end.

        Knowing that some LEO's take extreme offense to the term, yelling it out the window to a cop involved in a traffic stop is likely to distract the officer, and thus could reasonably be considered interference in that officer's duty. It could even get him killed, if while he is looking away, the traffic stop pulls a weapon.

        Conversely, driving past a LEO having lunch or some other less complicated affair and yelling "PIG" might hurt his/her feelings, but isn't nearly as dangerous.

        My hope in defining the word's origins is that some would understand how that could distract the officer whereas other words might not.
        If I tell you what I know, I'd have to kill you. Fortunately, I don't know much.

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        • #5
          "Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me!"

          You should hear some of the names I have called the bad guys!!
          Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence!

          [George Washington (1732 - 1799)]

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          • #6
            Originally posted by SgtCHP View Post
            "Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me!"

            You should hear some of the names I have called the bad guys!!
            Hee hee. I hope they didn't have cameras running.
            If I tell you what I know, I'd have to kill you. Fortunately, I don't know much.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by ISPY4U2 View Post
              I get called that all the time. Of course, immediate family doesn't count...

              I think the times it would matter are times like the now-banned MrCP (I think?) rolling by a traffic stop and yelling to an officer whose attention should be on that stop and the surrounding traffic, not some wingnut exercising his First Amendment "rights." And I posted the definitions toward that end.

              Knowing that some LEO's take extreme offense to the term, yelling it out the window to a cop involved in a traffic stop is likely to distract the officer, and thus could reasonably be considered interference in that officer's duty. It could even get him killed, if while he is looking away, the traffic stop pulls a weapon.

              Conversely, driving past a LEO having lunch or some other less complicated affair and yelling "PIG" might hurt his/her feelings, but isn't nearly as dangerous.

              My hope in defining the word's origins is that some would understand how that could distract the officer whereas other words might not.
              Yelling anything unusual at an officer during a traffic stop will probably distract him. It doesn't have to be pig. Whether or not it could be classified as interference is is subjective to say the least.
              Retired

              Comment


              • #8
                I always felt that yelling at an officer was an attempt to get his/her attention. And that attention could result in the discovery of unsafe driving, an improperly equipped car, or some other infraction. That could lead to a sizable deduction from your next pay check - just make it out to the city/county/state the officer works for!
                Have a nice day!
                "A man who has nothing which he cares about more than he does about his personal safety is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the existing of better men than himself."
                John Stuart Mill

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by ISPY4U2 View Post
                  COP: Cop the noun is almost certainly a shortening of copper, which in turn derives from cop the verb. Copper as slang for policeman is first found in print in 1846, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. The most likely explanation is that it comes from the verb "to cop" meaning to seize, capture, or snatch, dating from just over a century earlier (1704). As with many words, there are several stories floating around positing various origins, almost certainly false. The notion that cop is an acronym for "Constable On Patrol" is nonsense. Similarly, the word did not arise because police uniforms in New York (or London or wherever) had copper buttons, copper badges, or anything of the sort.
                  Not everyone agrees with you: Securing the Public.
                  Tim Dees, now writing as a plain old forum member, his superpowers lost to an encounter with gold kryptonite.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by retired View Post
                    So who cares if we are called pigs? You learn to let it roll off your back. Conversely, how many mrembers of the public have we referred to as an anal orifice?
                    How about Richard Cranium?
                    or having a bout of Cranial Flatulence
                    I got nothing for now

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Tim Dees View Post
                      Not everyone agrees with you: Securing the Public.
                      That's funny because he references and cites wikipedia.com as a destination to learn about the history of policing and in doing so you learn that cop means:

                      Cop

                      From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

                      A cop is a slang term used to describe Police, Constables, Sheriffs, Prison Guards and other Law Enforcement Officers. The usage of the word cop to refer to law enforcement may have been derived from the verb cop, which means to take or seize, or in reference to copper badges law enforcement officers wore.[1] The term Capere, Latin via French, means to capture.

                      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cop

                      So a little of each or:

                      You can also go to snopes.com to debunk the copper badges and constable on patrol theory:

                      http://www.snopes.com/language/acronyms/cop.asp

                      I lean more toward the take, seize, capture theory.
                      hbliam
                      Forum Member
                      Last edited by hbliam; 09-24-2007, 06:54 PM.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        ............................................
                        GrayState
                        Forum Member
                        Last edited by GrayState; 01-25-2013, 06:10 PM.

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                        • #13
                          "Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will will cost you an £80 ticket under Section 5 of the public order Act!"
                          The Allfather wove the skein of your life a long time ago. Go and hide in a hole if you wish, but you won't live one instant longer. Your fate is fixed. Fear, profits a man nothing.

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                          • #14
                            Wow! Another reason to love the Constitution!
                            "A man who has nothing which he cares about more than he does about his personal safety is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the existing of better men than himself."
                            John Stuart Mill

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                            • #15
                              I absolutely love it when a child comes up to me and yells "hey cop". Their trash parents usually have a suprised look on their face as they "correct" the child.
                              "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." - George Orwell
                              8541tactical.com - Ammo Wallets

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