copacetic
epparixey
The word copacetic is defined as "in order" or "okay" (as in "everything is copacetic"), but every dictionary I have checked lists the etymology as "origin unknown". My father and I believe that this word must come from the Hebrew phrase "Hakol beseder", which means exactly what copacetic does. It sounds too similar to be just a coincidence. Can it be that the dictionaries refuse to admit that one of our English words is derived not from Latin or Greek or Old French but from the Holy Language? Can anyone shed some light on this theory?
dtilque
Lexicographers have no problem tracing words back to Hebrew. There quite a few such words in the dictionary. "Behemoth" for example.

It's just that they need evidence showing some link between the English word and the Hebrew phrase. The earliest citations in the OED point toward a Black English source rather than a Jewish source.

PS Hebrew is no holier than any other language.

AdSumADS
Actually, around the time of the destruction of the second temple, there were so many Greek speaking Jewish scholars that the Pharisees made a deliberate change in policy, sanctioning Torahs written in other languages, such as Greek and Aramaic, etc. Prior to this, the five books of Moses were sanctified not only in content, but the medium, Hebrew, as well. This was a pragmatic solution. Hebrew retained a privileged status, and in debates over interpretation that rely on the nuance of translation, the original Hebrew is that to which one defers, but the intent was that Judaism could better survive through spreading the ideas beyond the language. The particular role of Hebrew to the numerological machinations of the mystical orders also cements its role, but its no longer singled out as a sanctified medium.

In contrast, Arabic is the sanctified sanctified medium of the Qaran. Certainly Latin is integral to Catholicism, but y'all'll have to defer to the papal encylcicals to pin down the status, and the post-Protestant Reformation Christianities undeniably put the paarticularity of the medium in disfavor. No religion outside the Abrahamic traditions come to mind that have even dealt with a crisis that would distinguish content from medium. I do seem to remember, however, that CD-ROMs containing the Sutras in Sanskrit were acknowledged favorably by the Dalai Llama when the issue of the cellulose-and-ink medium was brought into focus a few years back, but even then it wasn't the language that was in question. I gather, however, he'd consider translations to be copacetic.

Lewis Joplin II
COPACETIC -- "The word is also spelled 'copesetic,' leading (Eric) Partridge to suggest that this slang for 'excellent, all right,' or 'all safe or 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. 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 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.'" From "The Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997)

Another source says: "COPACETIC adj (1919) -- fine, excellent. US slang. Its origins remain unknown, despite various attempts to derive it from Latin, Yiddish, Italian, Louisiana French, and even various Native American languages. It remained in use at the end of the century, although it has never been successfully exported across the Atlantic..." From "20th Century Words: the Story of the New Words in English Over the Last Hundred Years" by John Ayto (Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York, 1999).

AdSumADS
On the theory that more is better, I can't help but notice certain similarities with "copious" which means "plentiful" or "abundant."
Return to the archive