Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Why We Say #12

Continuing on with our foray into unveiling the meaning behind those idioms we know (or not know) so well…


Jimmy Cagney voice: “You’ll never take me alive, copper.”

Gotta love those vintage gangster movies. Tommy guns blazing, trench coats, peroxide gun molls, and the dedicated police officers. “Copper” or “cop” an Americanism for police officers, actually owes it origins to London. Police uniforms of London’s finest were once adorned with large copper buttons–I wonder are they still?

I’m looking to get a cord of wood to bolster against winter’s chill. Red fir is the preferred wood by the MEPA’s standards and it has to be cut an irregular 14″ due to our small stove. Wait–what exactly is a cord? At one time a cord or string was used to measure a stack of wood to make it equal _____ feet long, _____ feet wide, and ______ feet deep. Got the answers? Try 8, 4, 4.

However, I still have to round up the wood before I can measure and it might be a wee late in the season to secure my snap, crackle, and poppers for the long winter nights. Presto logs just don’t lend the same ambiance.

Now, this is what I call combining a bit of fun with a full day’s work. Image:

“Oh, don’t give me those crocodile tears. You’re not really hurt.”

Crocodile tears–fake crying–insincere remorse–hypocritical sadness. We attribute that empty crying to being as empty as crocodiles shedding tears as they chomp down their victims. Wait–do crocodiles really cry? Apparently it’s been witnessed that these primitive reptilian cry when they are snacking? Try out this link. It’s more complicated than my little Why We Say book explained. Crocodile tears do make for some great social commentary:



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11 thoughts on “Why We Say #12

  1. How sad to think of the poor crocodiles so distraught with his human-munching that he cries. Poor little guy. 😉

    Interesting to learn of these word origins!

  2. I had another one to add to list from earlier today, but these poor brain cells won’t let me recall it. Love the reason behind “copper” and I love the creative cord. It strikes a chord with me. 😀

    Sorry, couldn’t help myself.

  3. The police over here tend to have those jackety things on now with all the pockets and zips which is a shame but we are more likely to call them bobbies still over here (after Robert peel of course). I hasten to add that I don’t tend to spend a lot of official time with the police, my knowledge comes from watching those TV shows where they follow the police around.

  4. Wow! I actually knew the copper one. Now why were cops called fuzz?

  5. The image of those poor crocodiles weeping, so sad!

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