copacetic / copasetic / copesetic

Discuss word origins and meanings.
Post Reply

copacetic / copasetic / copesetic

Post by Archived Topic » Mon Sep 20, 2004 6:15 pm

"copacetic"

I know it means 'very satisfactory', or, 'fine'. What I'm interested is where the word comes from.
Submitted by ( - )
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: Topic imported and archived

copacetic / copasetic / copesetic

Post by Archived Reply » Mon Sep 20, 2004 6:29 pm

It is listed in the American Slang Dictionary as having a root in French: Coupé Sétique. I know a bit of French and coupé is "cut", however, I cannot find "sétique".
Reply from Julia Averill (Providence - U.S.A.)
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: Reply imported and archived

copacetic / copasetic / copesetic

Post by Archived Reply » Mon Sep 20, 2004 6:58 pm

The official word on COPACETIC/COPASETIC/COPESETIC is ORIGIN UNKNOWN. This is confirmed by the New Shorter OED, The Random House Historical Dictionary of Slang, Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary, Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE), etc., etc.
____________________________________________________________________

The Fact on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins:

COPACETIC: The word is also spelled ‘copesetic, leading Partridge to suggest that this slang for ‘excellent, all right,’ or ‘all safe or all clear,’ as he defines it, is a combination of ‘cope’ and ‘antiseptic.’ But the expression is American and was largely confined to black speech when first recorded in the 1920s [actually 1919 according to OED]. Luther Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson may have invented ‘copacetic’ and the great tap dancer certainly did popularize it in his routines, giving the word wide currency. Robinson claimed he coined it when he was a shoeshine boy in Richmond. But a number of Southerners have testified that they heard the expression used by their parents or grandparents long before this. Another theory holds that ‘copecetic’ is from a Yiddish word meaning the same. It’s also spelled ‘kopasetic’ and ‘kopesetic.’
_____________________________________________________________________

The Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology:

COPACETIC adjective: 1919 ‘copasetic’ very good, all right, American English. Said to have originated among southern blacks in the 1800s [no mention of Bojangles], of uncertain origin. The suggestion that ‘copacetic’ came from a Hebrew phrase such as “(ha)kol b’seder” all in order, or . . . . is not accepted among scholars of American English.
_____________________________________________________________________

Also see the discussion below from 'Ask the Wordwizard':

Posted - 08 Oct 1998

Copasetic, a word that seems to have entered English-language (proeprly American) slang in the 1910s, is now seen as coming from the Chinook jargon word 'copasenee', meaning 'everything is satisfactory', especially as it was originally used on the waterways of Washington state. There have been, unsurprisingly, a number of alternativer etymologies. Among them are the painfully contrived phr. 'the cop is on the settee', ie. the cop is not paying attention, which supposed elided into 'copacetic' and was supposedly used as such by US hoodlums; another suggestion,less contrived but totally vague is that it was once 'an unknown Italian word'; another is the Fr. ‘coupersetique’: itself from ‘couper’: to strike, and thus meaning striking or worth a strike; the most feasible of the 'also-rans' is the Yiddish phr. 'hakol b'seder', all is in order or, in an earlier form, 'kol b'tzedek': all with justice. However Jonathan Lighter, in the Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang, dismisses all these and says 'ety. unknown'.

Jonathon Green

_____________________________________________________________________


Ken G – August 3, 2003
Reply from Ken Greenwald (Fort Collins, CO - U.S.A.)
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: Reply imported and archived

copacetic / copasetic / copesetic

Post by Ken Greenwald » Sat Mar 26, 2005 6:28 pm

Hot off the presses from

Michael Quinion’s World Wide Words

COPACETIC In the current issue of Comments on Etymology, Professor Gerald Cohen of the University of Missouri-Rolla has put forward a plausible suggestion for the origin of this most puzzling American term, first recorded in print from 1921, and which means "fine; all right". He points to French "copain(s) c'est épatant!", "buddy(s), that's great!". Many of the very early examples spell the word as variations on "copasetee", which may well have been the earliest pronunciation, the French phrase being abbreviated by losing all except the first vowel of the last word. He argues that the phrase may have been picked up by American soldiers in France during the First World War. Other expressions were certainly created at that time by mangling French terms, such as the British Tommy's "san fairy ann", from "ça ne fait rien", and "napoo" from "il n'y en a plus". The suggestion is seductive and intriguing, but in the absence of firm evidence - which may now never be forthcoming - it has to remain a hypothesis.
_____________________________________________________________________

Here are some examples from the OED. Note the one from 1919, which is two years earlier than Quinion’s claim of the earliest quote:
<1919 “‘As to looks I'd call him, as ye might say, real COPASETIC.’ Mrs. Lukins expressed this opinion solemnly . . . Its last word stood for nothing more than an indefinite depth of meaning.”—Man for Ages by I Bacheller, iv. page 69>

<1926 “‘KOPASETEE,’ an approbatory epithet somewhat stronger than ‘all right.’”—‘Nigger Heaven’ by C. Van Vechten, page 286>

<1933 ‘COPISSETTIC,’ all right, okay.”—‘Underworld & Prison Slang’ by N. Ersine, page 29>

<1934 “You had to be a good judge of what a man was like, and the English was COPACETIC.”—‘Appointment in Samarra’ (1935) by J. O’Hara. i. page 24>

<1937 “‘Everything is COPESETIC’. . . is synonymous with ‘O.K.’, and I believe it is used by negroes in the South.”—‘American Speech,’ XII. page 243/1>

<1947 “Torme not all COPA-SETIC.” (heading)—‘Down Beat,’ 18 June, page 4>

<1969 “We hear two city cops chatting. ‘Well, everything seems COPASETIC,’ says one. ‘Yeah, we might as well move on,’ the other agrees.”—‘Down Beat,’ 20 March, page 18/1>
Ken G – March 26, 2005
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS

Re: copacetic / copasetic / copesetic

Post by gdwdwrkr » Mon Dec 24, 2018 8:25 pm

For anyone who has installed trim or done finish-work in interior woodworking(wdwrkng), this word will resonate with rich meaning: when you cope an inside-corner-joint, and it fits snugly, looking for all the world like a miter, it is "copacetic", for sure.
The aesthete's aesthetic's proven when his coped-joint's copacetic.
Last edited by gdwdwrkr on Tue Dec 25, 2018 3:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS

Re: copacetic / copasetic / copesetic

Post by tony h » Tue Dec 25, 2018 1:22 pm

gdwdwrkr wrote:
Mon Dec 24, 2018 8:25 pm
For anyone who has installed trim or done finish-work in interior woodworking, this word will resonate with rich meaning: when you cope an inside-corner-joint, and it fits snugly, looking for all the world like a miter, it is "copacetic", for sure.
The aesthete's aesthetic's proven when his coped-joint's copacetic.

An impresive skill.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: tony

I'm puzzled therefore I think.

Re: copacetic / copasetic / copesetic

Post by gdwdwrkr » Tue Dec 25, 2018 3:52 pm

tony h wrote:
Tue Dec 25, 2018 1:22 pm
An impresive skill.
The ascetic's aesthetic's coped-joint's copacetic.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS

ACCESS_END_OF_TOPIC
Post Reply