Cup of Joe

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Cup of Joe

Post by Archived Topic » Sun Oct 17, 2004 3:51 pm

what is the origin of "cup of joe" and "falling off the wagon"
Submitted by David Payne (Kailu - U.S.A.)
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Cup of Joe

Post by Archived Reply » Sun Oct 17, 2004 4:05 pm

David, When you check to see if your question has already been discussed, it’s a good idea to search for a key word just in case it has been, but perhaps in a phrase of a slightly different form. In the case of ‘cup of joe,’ nothing shows up in the Archive for that phrase, and the same is true for a search on ‘joe.’ However, if you try the same thing in Ask the Wordwizard (which it is a good idea to try before the Archive – it’s faster), you will find that the question was answered under ‘cup a joe.’ Similarly, if you search ‘Ask the Wordwizard’ under ‘wagon’ you will find a discussion under ‘on the wagon.’ However, I found both of these discussions lacking, so I include the following:
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A CUP OF JOE (joe is not capitalized) is a cup of coffee and the official word on ‘joe’ (also ‘j.o.) is that it first appeared in print in 1930 although according to the ‘Oxford Dictionary of Slang,’ its origin is unknown. However, Flexner in his ‘Dictionary of American Slang’ says: “it apparently derives from the ‘j’ of Java or the ‘j’ and ‘o’ of ‘jamoke.’” ‘The Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang’ says that perhaps ‘joe,’ which is especially used in the Navy, derived from the Stephen Foster song ‘Old Black Joe’(1860) [i.e. as in black coffee]. <1930 ‘Tramp and Underworld Slang’ by Irwin, page 110: ‘Joe’—coffee>

P.S. Java is the main island of Indonesia from which Javan coffee (introduced there by the Dutch in the 17th century) came and from which the slang word for coffee ‘java’ (1907) derives. ‘Jamoca’ (1910-15), which is also slang for coffee is probably from JA(va) + MOCHA, respelled. And ‘mocha’ (1765-75) was a choice variety of coffee, originally from Mocha, Arabia, which was the seaport near which the coffee was originally grown and from which it was originally exported.

(also Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary) ____________________________________________________________

Picturesque Expressions by Urdang

ON THE WAGON: Abstaining from alcoholic beverages; said of a teetotaler or nephalist. This expression is a truncated version of the earlier more explicit ‘on the water-wagon’ < ‘Remorse’ by George Ades, 1902: “But R-e-m-o-r-s-e! / The water-wagon is the place for me; / It is no time for mirth and laughter, / The cold, gray dawn of the morning after!”>

Antithetically, OFF THE WAGON implies the resumption of alcoholic indulgence after a period of abstinence. <‘Yea Verily’ by A. J. Liebling in ‘The New Yorker,’ September 27, 1952: “Like the bartenders, they fell off the wagon.”>
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Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins

ON THE WAGON: The original version of this expression, ‘on the water wagon or water cart,’ which isn’t heard anymore, best explains the phrase. During the late 19th century, water carts drawn by horses wet down dusty roads in the summer. At the height of Prohibition crusade in the 1890s men who vowed to stop drinking would say that they were thirsty indeed but would rather climb aboard the water cart to get a drink than break their pledges. From this sentiment came the expression “I’m on the water cart,” I’m trying to stop drinking, which is first recorded in, of all places, Alice Caldwell Rice’s ‘Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch’ (1901), where the consumptive Mr. Dick says it to Old Mrs. Wiggs. The more alliterative ‘wagon’ soon replaced cart in the expression and it eventually shortened to ‘on the wagon. FALL OFF THE (WATER) WAGON made its entry into the language almost immediately after its abstinent sister.
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Ken G – December 26, 2003






Reply from Ken Greenwald (Fort Collins, CO - U.S.A.)
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Cup of Joe

Post by Archived Reply » Sun Oct 17, 2004 4:20 pm

ken, i was in the navy for many years and we always called it joe of course i didn't know why it was just so. but i have read the lyrics to old black joe and don't see any overt connection can you enlighten me?
Reply from jason alexandro (jacksonville - U.S.A.)
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Cup of Joe

Post by Archived Reply » Sun Oct 17, 2004 4:34 pm

Jason, The connection sounded like a stretch to me also, but I was just quoting the ‘Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang’(RHHDAS) – a generally very careful and reliable source. In searching for an answer to your question and what RHHDAS could possibly have been thinking as far as a connection, I stumbled on the following article in Michael Quinion’s ‘World Wide Words.’ Quinion is a world-class lexicographer and major contributor to the Oxford English Dictionary and he seems to think the link between the two is ‘implausible’ – and I’ll drink to that one!:

The absence of any clear origin for the use of ‘joe’ to mean coffee has, as usual, led to stories being created to explain where it came from.

A persistent one alleges that it derives from the ban imposed by Admiral Josephus “Joe” Daniels, Secretary of the Navy, on serving alcohol aboard US Navy ships, except on very special occasions. Coffee, it is said, became the beverage of choice and started to be called Joe in reference to him. The problem with this story is the dates. ‘Cup of joe’ appears in the written record in 1930 but the order to ban alcohol—General Order 99—was issued on 1 June 1914. It banned officers’ wine messes, which had only been permitted since 1893; ships had otherwise been dry since the spirit ration was abolished in 1862. It seems hardly likely that the loss of a wine mess limited to officers on board otherwise alcohol-free ships would have led to a nickname for coffee that only started to be written down 16 years after the order.

Professor Jonathan Lighter, in the ‘Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang,’ leans towards another story: that it came from the Stephen Foster song Old Black Joe, with the resultant mental link between black and coffee. It is true that the song—written in 1860—was extremely popular at one time, but it makes no reference to coffee, so linking the two is implausible.

The most boring, but most probable, suggestion is that it is a modification of ‘java’ or ‘jamoke’ for coffee, perhaps under the influence of one or other of the many expressions at the time that contained the word ‘Joe’—for example, “an ordinary Joe” (though “GI Joe” for an enlisted man in the US military is from the next decade). It is significant that an early example appears in 1931 in the ‘Reserve Officer’s Manual’ by a man named Erdman: “Jamoke, Java, Joe. Coffee. Derived from the words Java and Mocha, where originally the best coffee came from”.
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Ken G – December 30, 2003


Reply from Ken Greenwald (Fort Collins, CO - U.S.A.)
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Cup of Joe

Post by Archived Reply » Sun Oct 17, 2004 4:49 pm

WOW THAT SURE COVERS A LOT THANKS MUCH I ALSO AGREE THE LINK IS NOT PAUSABLE BUT I GUESS THAT GOES TO SHOW HOW NAVY SLANG IS THERE BUT WE DONT KNOW WHY LIKE I SAID IT WAS JUST SO.
Reply from jason alexandro (jacksonville - U.S.A.)
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