1. (US, also copperskin, Mr Copperskin) a Native American; also attrib.
|in Travels Amer. Col 523: He said there would be Copers [sic] and White people present at the meeting [DA].|
|DA].Greyslaer II 26: ‘Go on, go on, Kit; d’y say a dozen Injuns?’ ‘Yes, uncle, not a Copperskin less’ [|
|Eaton Democrat (OH) 13 Mar. 2/5: I feel disposed to defend [...] the principle of music, no matter by it may be taught, whether it be negro, white man, Hottentot or copperskin.|
|Canoe and the Saddle (1883) 146: The five copper-skins first eyed me over with lazy thoroughness.|
|London Standard 2 Aug. 5/3: General Sheridan [...] is an extreme authority to cite on the subject of the treatment of the copperskins.|
|Leamington Spa Courier 7 May n.p.: [He] was evidently well acquainted with the not over-prepossessing copper-skin.|
|Gloucester Citizen 4 Feb. 3/3: On almost every Indian reservation there is a court of Indian offences presided over by a Copperksin judge.|
|Silent Places 72: What the hell do we care for a lot of copper-skins from Rupert’s House!|
|Owosso Times (MI) 17 Mar. 2/2: Listen to the tales of B.O., of his great hunting trips and trading with Mr Copperskin.|
|Fowlers End (2001) 56: Copper Baldwin. It would not have surprised me if he had turned out to be a Yaqui Indian in war paint.|
2. as money.
(a) a halfpenny; thus coppers, mixed pennies and halfpennies.
|Life’s Painter 133: What, no copper clinking among you, my hearties?|
|‘Luke Caffrey’s Ghost’ in Chap Book Songs 3: So ’fore all your coppers are spint, / Take warning in time, as I charge you.|
|Pettyfogger Dramatized II iii: Our calling would not be worth a copper, but for such gentry as him.|
|Sporting Mag. Mar. XXIII 352/1: Tom licks him, I’ll lay you a copper.|
|Letters of Major J. Downing (1835) 45: They tell me it [i.e. a bank-note] ain’t worth a copper.|
|London By Night I ii: Got a copper for the sweeper.|
|Paved with Gold 87: They’ll all say they ain’t got no coppers, but don’t believe it and stick to ’em.|
|(con. 1840s–50s) London Labour and London Poor III 64/2: The novelty of the exhibition ensured its success, and the ‘coppers’ poured in.|
|Bushrangers 115: De man might go off and no pay me. We has to look arter all de coppers, or we be ruined.|
|Three Brass Balls 160: It was bad enough to be so pushed that the flat-iron had to go for a few coppers to carry on with.|
|Morn. Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld) 18 July 2/6: A half-penny [...] may find the following; ‘bawbees,’ ‘browns,’ ‘camden town,’ ‘coppers,’ ‘ flatch,’ ‘gray,’ ‘madge.’ ‘make,’ ‘mag or maga,’ ‘posh,’ and ‘rap’.|
|Hooligan Nights 49: Blackmailing is [...] only to be resorted to when you haven’t one copper to rub against another.|
|New Boys’ World 22 Dec. 76: The I-talian disappeared without leaving me a copper.|
|London Street Games 124: They asked me to play BANKER (just for a lark, they said) and got five coppers out of me in about half as many minutes.|
|Juno and the Paycock Act II: Fond of his pint – well, rather, but hated the Boss by creed / But never refused a copper to comfort a pal in need.|
|They Drive by Night 24: ‘Tea, please,’ he said, banging two coppers down on the counter.|
|Indiscreet Guide to Soho 59: The million-pound epics yield only coppers to the rank-and-file of the industry. [Ibid.] 62: They don’t give you a chance to earn an honest copper.|
|Lore and Lang. of Schoolchildren (1977) 299: Please can you spare me a copper or two? / If you haven’t got a penny a ha’penny will do.|
|Adolescent Boys of East London (1969) 157: I said to Michael, ‘Have you got four coppers. I want them for the telephone box?’ The copper went absolutely mad.|
|Only Fools and Horses [TV script] I’m not going to mess around with coppers.‘Healthy Competition’|
(b) (US) a cent.
|in DA].Amer. Coinage (1858) 102: All Coppers by him coined, shall be in pieces of one third of an ounce [|
|Brother Jonathan II 137: It amounted to one dollar and a quarter, ‘hard money’; or ten shillings ‘York currency’ — or two hundred and fifty half coppers.|
|DA].Notes 7: The word coppers designates cents [|
|Stray Subjects (1848) 104: Here’s yure contemptible copper.|
|Reformed Gambler 34: This meeting was held in the Methodist Church, which for me was most unfortunate, as the house was crowded with revivalists, who left their coppers at home, or kept them close in their pockets.|
|Boss 7: I knew a way to pick up coppers.|
|Coll. Stories (1990) 50: Two coppers remained like two eyes mocking him.‘With Malice Toward None’ in|
|DA].Cable Car Days 70: A well-known lady living on Nob Hill [...] boarded a California Street cable car and produced five coppers in payment of her fare [|
(c) in pl., wages.
|(con. 1930s) Muvver Tongue 17: ‘Coppers’ has been used for wages collected when a person leaves or is sacked from a job – ‘You can have your cards and coppers’.|
(d) (W.I.) in pl., money in general.
|Notes for Gloss. of Barbadian Dial. 35: Coppers. [...] the word is also used in a sense similar to spondulicks, dough, etc.: as He can buy a car; he got the coppers.|
3. a police officer [the SE copper badges carried by New York City’s first police sergeants; patrolmen had brass badges, lieutenants and captains silver ones; strengthened by cop v. (1)].
|Cockney Adventures 3 Feb. 107: ‘Do it at vonce, else the coppers ’ill come,’ said he of the short pipe.|
|Mysteries and Miseries of N.Y. I 36: In Boston, the coppers there aint half so keen with their peepers as they are here!|
|Chester Chron. 25 June 6/5: If the ‘coppers’ or police officers are too wide-awake [...] the twisting dodge is tried.|
|Manchester Courier 13 June 4/4: ‘Copper’... a slang name for a policeman derived from cop, which is a well known and generally used vulgarism for ‘catch’ .|
|Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 6/1: We were all assembled over our ‘lush’ [...] when the ‘office’ was given that the ‘coppers’ were ‘on’.|
|Five Years’ Penal Servitude 236: I daresay the coppers quite expected us the next night, and looked out for us.|
|‘Blooming Aesthetic’ in Rag 30 Sept. n.p.: A tell-a-good-whopper young man, / A slogging-a-copper young man.|
|Ally Sloper’s Half Holiday 7 June 47/2: To others Samuel Hardstaff is a peeler, a reeler, a copper, a Bobby, a Robert, an unboiled lobster, or a slop, but to cook he is Mr Policeman.|
|Bulletin (Sydney) 23 Aug. 19/2: I heard the copper say – / ‘Drunk, yer worship, quite incapable, unconscious, an’ I ran / Him into quod for safety.’ Said I, ‘Oh, Cigar divan.’.|
|From Boniface to Bank Burglar in Hamilton (1952) 45: The fat, thin, great, small, long and short hand of the copper was held out from all sides.|
|His Last Bow in Baring-Gould (1968) II 798: ‘The man was mad.’ [...] ‘It’s enough to make a man bughouse when he has to play a part from mornin’ to night, with a hundred guys all ready to set the coppers wise to him.’.|
|Man’s Grim Justice 35: ‘There never was a copper that couldn’t be bought,’ she said.|
|Foveaux 142: It would just serve you right, if we let you loose, and you did stouch a copper and get pinched.|
|Really the Blues 32: I couldn’t figure out why a copper would go poking his nose under the seat of a respectable-looking cab.|
|Live Like Pigs Act I: You put us. Coppers put us – all the lot of narks.|
|Cockade (1965) I ii: All coppers are [...] bastards.‘Prisoner and Escort’ in|
|Family Arsenal 27: The coppers’ll be on to you before long and have you in the nick.|
|(con. 1950s–60s) in Little Legs 4: Dixie boy, here comes a copper.|
|Indep. Information 21–27 Aug. 59: He was everybody’s idea of what a copper should be.|
|Guardian Guide 22–28 Jan. 9: ‘That pickaxe is covered in blood, isn’t it?’ asked one copper.|
|Pigeon English 87: F— off before I call the coppers!|
|Crime Factory: Hard Labour [ebook] Pussy on tap, dope, money, land. No coppers.‘Grassed’ in|
4. attrib. use of sense 3.
|Sydney Sportsman (Surry Hills, NSW) 5 Dec. 4/1: Persons that, in ‘copper’ parlance, are ‘well known to the police’.|
|Never Come Morning (1988) 24: Even cops ’d come around [...] he’ll tell ’em they can stay around ’n have a beer so long as they don’t try no smart copper tricks.|
5. an informer, whether in or out of prison.
|Leaves from a Prison Diary I 22: They [i.e. senior criminals] never ‘round’ upon each other, while they hold all ‘coppers’ (prison informers) in detestation.|
|Winnipeg Trib. (Manitoba) 9 Dec. 19/1: ‘Copper’ — [...] ‘a crook’ who betrays another crook to the police.|
|Human Side of Crook and Convict Life 152: One of the lags of our party, who had a reputation as a copper (or tale-bearer), saw the mist rising.|
|DAUL 50/1: Copper. [...] 3. An informer; a despicable person.et al.|
|Big Huey 122: The next time the screw tries to come any shit, you just tell him to do his own dirty work [...] He’s trying to make coppers of all of you.|
|Aus. Prison Sl. Gloss. [Internet] Copper. 2. An informer.|
6. (US prison) good conduct marks.
|‘9009’ (1909) 7: ‘Hang on to your copper,’ he murmured. [Ibid.] 38: He would have remaining to serve only 1760 days. 1760 – if he held his copper. He had held it [...] These calculations had become a mania with him. He would reduce to days his original sentence, then to days his copper, then his original sentence minus his copper, then his original sentence minus his copper minus the days served.|
|Vocab. Criminal Sl. 25: copper [...] Current amongst prison habitues. The commutation or good time allowed prisoners for good behavior. Example: ‘You grab one month copper off the first year’.|
|Keys to Crookdom 401: Coppers. Credits given for good behavior in prison.|
|San Quentin Bulletin in L.A. Times 6 May 7: COPPER, good prison records.|
|DAUL 50/1: Copper. [...] 2. (Many prisons) Time off for good behavior; good time.et al.|
|,||DAS 123/1: copper Time subtracted from a prison sentence because of good behaviour; time off a prison sentence because the prisoner has informed on his co-criminals after the sentence was imposed.|
7. a private detective.
|Pulp Fiction (2006) 20: The first man I ran into was [...] Pederson, the house copper.‘The Creeping Siamese’ in Penzler|
8. (US Und./police) ext. of sense 6, parole.
|Farewell, My Lovely (1949) 35: We got a wire from the Oregon State pen on him [...] All time served except his copper.|
9. see copperhead n. (3)
1. being an informer by nature; thus turn copper-hearted, to betray one’s associates.
|Cleveland Morn. Leader (OH) 23 Mar. 1/2: Judas [...] became copper-headed and copper-hearted and betrayed his Lord to the Confeederate Priests.|
|Jackson Dly News (MS) 1 Apr. 7/3: Crook Chatter [...] [A] dip who has been turned up because some woman ‘tipped her mitt’ [...] denounces her as a ‘copper-hearted moll’.|
|Pacific Reporter 223 212/2: ‘I am going to have you arrested’ [...] ‘You copper-hearted son of a bitch; I will cut your head off’.|
|Amer. Mercury 21 455: Copper-hearted, adj.: To be by nature a police informer. ‘Is that broad copper-hearted? And how!’.|
|Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).|
|Men of the Und. 287: His hoodlum pals give him a quick brush-off, considering him a copper-hearted flunky.|
|Pimp 37: One thing about ‘Party’ he wasn’t copper-hearted. He never tipped my name to the heat.|
2. mean, vicious, adhering to the negative stereotypes of the police.
|[||Edgefield Advertiser (SC) 29 June 2/2: The Copper-hearted Chicken! We have been shewn a dirty copper cent which someone plmed off on the ladies of the Methodist Church].|
|Und. and Prison Sl.|
|Long Old Road 171: ‘I don’t mean you don’t do your work well, but you don’t think like a policeman.’ [...] ‘You mean I’m not copper-hearted?’.|
|New Strategies for Public Affairs Reporting 157: They [i.e. reporters] must be able to convey police attitudes without being either ‘copper-hearted’ or overly critical.|
a police station.
|Gilt Kid 133: Just imagine getting a rub-down at the copper-house.|
(US drugs/Und.) excessive fear of the police, verging on obsession.
|Junkie (1966) 65: Pushing junk is a constant strain on the nerves. Sooner or later you get the ‘copper jitters’ and everybody looks like a cop.|
1. a prison warden.
|Wash. Post 3 July 3/1: Yer right, red [...] A little stretch up at Copper John’s is the only thing fer Hoppy’s habit.|
2. a prison.
|cited inYesterday’s Faces (1987) 83: ‘Liberty For Sale’ (December 4, 1926) allows Big Scar to break into ‘Copper John’ — the Blackstone Penitentiary.|
|Und. Speaks 26/1: Copper John, a penitentiary.|
3. an informer.
|Man with the Golden Arm 184: Copper johns, double clockers, lush workers and mush workers, deadpickers and turncoats.|
see copman n.1
see wooden nickel under wooden adj.
(UK juv.) a police officer.
|London Street Games 49: You can spend a nice Sunday afternoon over it, if there are no coppernobs about.|
|Lore and Lang. of Schoolchildren (1977) 395: Nicknames current among boys [...] Cop, Copper or Coppernob.|
see helmet n. (1)
a police station .
|in Service of Love 321: I am going to use the telephone to get into communication with the nearest copper-shop; otherwise police-station.|
|River Police 217: Wapping Police Station was hit, the boatyard being put out of action temporarily, and a large wharf on the other side of the station was razed to the ground. So the ‘copper shop’ had a providential escape.|
|DSUE (8th edn) 254/1: since ca. 1910.|
|London Bridges (2001) 282: If we’re going to a copper-shop, we’d better be road-legal.|
(US Und.) used of one who is terrified of the police.
|(con. 1905–25) Professional Thief (1956) 30: The fact that he is a drunkard, lazy, a dope fiend, coppershy [...] or any of many other characteristics.|
|Men of the Und. 321: Coppershy, Afraid of the police.|
see sense 1 above.
a police informer.
|Dundee Courier 4 Sept. 3/6: In a case tried [...] this week, a witness incidentally said [...] a ‘copper’s nark’ meant a person who gives information to the police.|
|Manchester Eve. News 30 Sept. 2/5: It was rumoured that the deceased had been stabbed because he was a spy against the Fenians, and was known as a ‘copper’s nark’.|
|Jottings from Jail 24: Another complains that he is ‘put away by Charly Start, the Copper’s Nark’.|
|Answers 20 July 121/1: He instructed me... on no account to appear to be anxious to pry into their secrets, lest I should be mistaken for a copper’s nark, i.e., a person in the pay of the police [F&H].|
|Daily Tel. 18 Oct. in (1909) 92/1: Upon this the prisoner, who was standing by, accused witness of being a ‘copper’s nark’ (i.e., a police spy), and dealt him several severe blows.|
|In London’s Heart 293: You’ve done this, you skunk! [...] You’ve turned coppers’ nark!|
|Monkey’s Paw (1962) 234: ‘Narks,’ says the ’tec; ‘coppers’ narks.’.‘Self-Help’ in|
|Limehouse Nights 135: She was known to be a copper’s nark.|
|Manchester Democrat (IA) 5 July 7/5: Will you shake hands — with a copper’s nark?|
|Crooks of the Und. 69: A ‘grass’ is the term for ‘copper’s nark’ in the underworld to-day.|
|Eve. Herald (Dublin) 9 Dec. 4/6: There are many terms used by crooks to describe this person [i.e. an informer] who is known as ‘copper’s nark,’ ‘squeaker,’ and ‘grasshopper’.|
|Nor the Years Condemn 211: Come on, you copper’s nark.|
|Z Cars (1963) 112: I’m no copper’s nark.|
|Outcasts of Foolgarah (1975) 27: Brown Tongue decided to play his well-known role of copper’s nark.|
|Only Fools and Horses [TV script] My Mum’d turn in her grave if she knew I’d become a copper’s nark!‘May the Force be with You’|
|Lingo 50: Other terms that remained fairly firmly in the little lingo of the crims included do a bust, to escape from custody; darbies for handcuffs [...] and copper’s nark, meaning a police informer.|
|Hooky Gear 231: Registered informants, coppers narks, grasses, call them what you will.|
a police station.
|press cutting in Passing Eng. of the Victorian Era 92/1: Do you think I’ve arrived at my time of life without seeing the inside of a copper’s shanty?|
1. a police truncheon.
|DSUE (8th edn) 254/1: from ca. 1880.|
2. the penis [fig. use of sense 1 + stick n. (1a)].
|Sl. and Its Analogues.|
|Vocabula Amatoria (1966) 32: Baton, m. The penis; ‘the copper-stick’.|
|Maledicta IV:2 (Winter) 194: We also find the policeman represented with his truncheon, billie, night stick or copper stick (which is also a housewife’s tool of the last century).|
(US prison) to lose the reduction in sentence that would otherwise accrue for good conduct; thus hold one’s copper, to maintain good conduct.
|‘9009’ (1909) 38: He would have remaining to serve only 1760 days. 1760 – if he held his copper. He had held it.|
|San Quentin Bulletin in L.A. Times 6 May 7: BLOW YOUR COPPER, to lose good time prison credits.|
|Rebellion of Leo McGuire (1953) 227: I began serving my life sentence in Sing Sing and the very first resolution I made was that I was going to keep my good behaviour, or what good old Danny [...] used to call holding your copper.|
(UK Und.) to inform the police.
|[||Sheffield Eve. Teleg. 4 Nov. n.p.: A schoolboy described how he secured the parcel containing the body, and how he proceeded to call a ‘copper’].|
|Spanish Blood (1946) 139: I called copper on Mops Parisi.‘Nevada Gas’ in|
|Dead Ringer 75: You could see the idea of calling copper hurt him.|
|Carny Kill (1993) 105: Nobody should call copper because of it.|
|Chantic Bird 114: You’ve got to watch the citizens. They’ll call copper if you look sideways at them.|
|Mr Blue 83: He still might scream copper and get us closed down.|
to become an informer.
|Marsh 282: Your great bully [...] was here yesterday afternoon trying to bribe me to come copper about a burglary.|
|They Drive by Night 122: You bin and shopped me. That’s what you done. Come the copper. You dirty little bitch.|
|Look Long Upon a Monkey 27: He didn’t expect a tumble, and if this Irish geezer didn’t reckon the lark he wasn’t the sort to come the copper.|
to raise the alarm.
|[||London’s Bad Boys 21: There is only one thing for it, and that is to cry ‘Copper’ in a long-drawn-out yell as warning to all others, and bolt for it as hard as possible].|
|Double Star 25: Look, old son, I might twist your arm a bit and let you think that I would cry copper — but I never would.|
|Teachers (1962) 26: As she’s cried copper so often she bloody well had to.|
|(con. 1980s) A Few Kind Words and a Loaded Gun 285: If you go mob-handed to an after-hours drinker and try your luck starting fights with strangers, how can you turn around and cry ‘copper’ when you come unstuck.|
(Aus.) to defecate.
|Aus. Prison Sl. Gloss. [Internet] Give birth (to it). To defecate.|
|Lingo 88: Bodily functions do not escape the Lingo. Defecation may be unappealingly described as giving birth to a copper (a policeman), or choking a darkie.|
(US) a half-cent.
|Brother Jonathan II 137: It amounted to one dollar and a quarter, ‘hard money’; or ten shillings ‘York currency’ — or two hundred and fifty half coppers.|
|These Were Our Years (1959) 210: Mrs. Snyder and Gray have been ‘hollering copper’ on each other.‘A Chilly Looking Blond’ in|
|Runyon on Broadway (1954) 45: He is not going to holler copper about it.‘Dream Street Rose’ in|
|Black Mask Mar. XXII 10: Not my contract. I holler police. I squawk to Jim Farley.|
|Joyful Condemned 21: Don’t let’s have any blues [...] You know how the brush are? Screaming and yelling copper at the least little thing.|
|On the Waterfront (1964) 246: You mean holler cop? Are you kiddin?|
|Yarns of Billy Borker 61: Some mug is bound to squeal coppers sooner or later.|
|(con. c.1900) King Blood (1989) 25: She tipped the ‘fool’ she had roped, and the fool hollered copper.|
|Thief 191: Give the girl a silver dollar; you didn’t holler copper.|
|(con. 1930s) Texas Stories (1995) 140: When hit with the swag when the hooks were out, they could take a drop without hollering cop.‘The Last Carousel’ in|
|Muscle for the Wing 188: I didn’t holler cop.|
|(con. 1920s) Legs 179: We hightailed it too, in case he hollered copper.|
(UK Und.) to inform (on).
|Illus. Police News 18 Jan. 12/1: Once, after a devil of a row, she played copper — nosed on me.Wild Tribes of London in|
(UK Und.) to inform against.
|Illus. Police News 22 Oct. 12/2: ‘So you’ve nosed, have you [...] Well, you’ll never put the copper on anyone else’’.Devil of Dartmoor in|
see call copper
(US) to become an informer.
|Jackson Dly News (MS) 1 Apr. 7/1: Crook Chatter [...] ‘I’d like to know who turned “copper” and “tipped his mitt”’ .|
|Human Side of Crook and Convict Life 23: Turn ‘copper’! [...] No bloomin’ fear! Not if it means twenty years.|
|You Can’t Win (2000) 271: Annie, too ready to believe herself ‘a woman scorned,’ tuned copper on me.|
|Harper’s Mag. CLX 311: He so hates the law, and the brass buttons and stars which to him are its symbol, that even in death he won’t ‘turn copper’.‘A Burglar Looks at Laws and Codes’ in|
|Und. and Prison Sl.|
|DAUL 228/2: Turn copper. To desert the underworld and assist the authorities by informing against one’s erstwhile associates.et al.|