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Not A Tame Lion
03-07-2006, 12:14 PM
I've watched a lot of Python, and there's one line that comes up frequently that always leaves me a little baffled. It's the one that goes, "It's a fair ( ), but I blame society." It sounds to me like "it's a fair COP" but I'm not sure that's the right word. I feel like the accent is getting the better of me.

I get the gist of the line and its humor, but I've never been certain what exactly "it's a fair cop" (if that is the right word) means, or how it is derived. Can any limeys out there give me some insight? This has bugged me for a long time.

Thanks in advance.

Loach
03-07-2006, 12:18 PM
[B]What's all this then!

It's a fair cop. Same as "allright you got me".

Miller
03-07-2006, 12:20 PM
The word is, indeed, "cop." In this context, it means "to take, or grab." In the States, we'd use "pinch" in more or less the same way.

tdn
03-07-2006, 12:20 PM
Main Entry: 2cop
Function: transitive verb
Inflected Form(s): copped; cop∑ping
Etymology: perhaps from Dutch kapen to steal, from Frisian kApia to take away; akin to Old High German kouf trade -- more at CHEAP
1 slang : to get hold of : CATCH, CAPTURE; also : PURCHASE
2 slang : STEAL, SWIPE
- cop a plea : to plead guilty to a lesser charge in order to avoid standing trial for a more serious one broadly : to admit fault and plead for mercy

Superdude
03-07-2006, 12:20 PM
I've wondered about that, too. From here (http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-fai2.htm):

"Itís a fair cop" was what the essentially good-natured thief with a typically British sense of fair play was supposed to say as his collar was fingered by the fuzz, meaning that the arrest was reasonable and that he really had done what he was accused of doing.

Rube E. Tewesday
03-07-2006, 12:27 PM
Yeah, according to the code of those innocent days, the copper was supposed to say "You're nicked, chummy", and the villain was to reply "It's a fair cop, guv".

Whether this ever really unfolded in real life, I have no idea.

Spectre of Pithecanthropus
03-07-2006, 12:35 PM
In The Quest For The Holy Grail, Connie Booth's character says, very quietly, "It's a fair cop" when the duck outweighs her in the big balance. It took me many viewings to be able to understand what she was saying.

Not A Tame Lion
03-07-2006, 12:38 PM
Ah, another mystery solved. Now I'm that much closer to enlightenment. Thanks to everyone for the wisdom (including tdn's lovely etymology).

Now when do I get my "What's all this then?" t-shirt?

Northern Piper
03-07-2006, 12:40 PM
I've watched a lot of Python, and there's one line that comes up frequently that always leaves me a little baffled. It's the one that goes, "It's a fair ( ), but I blame society." It sounds to me like "it's a fair COP" but I'm not sure that's the right word. I feel like the accent is getting the better of me.

I get the gist of the line and its humor, but I've never been certain what exactly "it's a fair cop" (if that is the right word) means, or how it is derived. Can any limeys out there give me some insight? This has bugged me for a long time.

Thanks in advance.you've got it right - "cop" is rather oldish slang for arrest. A "fair cop" is one where the arrested person admits that there was a reason for the arrest.

The phrase reflects the common law of arrest. At common law, an arrest wasn't complete until the peace officer physically took hold of the miscreant. For example, in R. v. Asante-Mensah (http://www.lexum.umontreal.ca/csc-scc/en/pub/2003/vol2/html/2003scr2_0003.html) the Supreme Court of Canada adopted this definition of when an arrest is valid, based on the common law:Arrest consists of the actual seizure or touching of a person's body with a view to his detention. The mere pronouncing of words of arrest is not an arrest, unless the person sought to be arrested submits to the process and goes with the arresting officer. (underlining mine)So the peace officer has to physically take the accused into custody for a valid arrest, but if the accused submits to the arrest, the physical touching is not necessary, and the arrest is valid at law. So the accused's submission, such as a statement that he accepts that he's under arrest, can be a substitute for the physical contact required by law - it's a fair arrest.

So why "cop"? It's because "cop" is slang for grabbing something. Roget's (http://www.bartleby.com/62/46/C0334600.html) gives this set of synonyms: 1. Slang. To obtain possession or control of: capture, gain, get, take, win. A peace officer can be said to have "copped" someone when they arrest them by physical contact, as required by the common law, so by extension, an arrest can be said to be a "cop". (Note that this is the same slang term in the adolescent phrase, "copped a feel").

Take the fact that an arrestee can admit that the arrest is valid by submitting to it, add the slang usage for "cop", and you've got the phrase, "it's a fair cop."

Whether the phrase was actually used very much, I don't know. It sounds to me like the sort of thing Rumpole would expect to hear his better class of old-fashinoned career criminals say, not the young smash-and-grab types.

ElvisL1ves
03-07-2006, 12:48 PM
I prefer the full Python version: "It's a fair cop, but society's to blame."

Maus Magill
03-07-2006, 12:57 PM
I prefer the full Python version: "It's a fair cop, but society's to blame."
"Right then, we'll be nicking 'im, too."

Love that comeback.

Robot Arm
03-07-2006, 01:14 PM
Now when do I get my "What's all this then?" t-shirt?Have you seen Silverado?

Not A Tame Lion
03-07-2006, 02:03 PM
Have you seen Silverado?
No, or not in a very long time. I'm not getting your reference.

I must say, I'm impressed with all the esoteric knowledge everyone's been able to drag up for what seemed like such a miniscule, throwaway line. Gold stars all around.

sqweels
03-07-2006, 02:16 PM
And of course, the noun "cop" is short for "copper", as in "one who cops".

Equipoise
03-07-2006, 02:31 PM
Wow, and all these years I thought they were saying "It's a fair coup" as in a sudden takeover (of a joke or skit).

Robot Arm
03-07-2006, 03:38 PM
No, or not in a very long time. I'm not getting your reference.Early in the film, Paden and Emmett are travelling to Silverado and pass through a small town where Emmett is expecting to meet up with his brother. In a saloon, they see a couple guys hassling Mal and a small scuffle breaks out. The local sheriff, who you might recognize, comes in and says...

Odinoneeye
03-07-2006, 03:40 PM
In The Quest For The Holy Grail, Connie Booth's character says, very quietly, "It's a fair cop" when the duck outweighs her in the big balance. It took me many viewings to be able to understand what she was saying.

Me too, in fact for a long time I thought she said, "That's a fat duck"

BrainGlutton
03-07-2006, 07:59 PM
And of course, the noun "cop" is short for "copper", as in "one who cops".

I always thought "cop" came from the copper buttons American police officers wore on their coats back in the Keystone Kops days.

Tevildo
03-07-2006, 08:04 PM
I always thought "cop" came from the copper buttons American police officers wore on their coats back in the Keystone Kops days.
* sighs * It had to happen.

No, it doesn't. Neither does it stand for Constable On Patrol. Neither does shit stand for Ship High In Transit.

http://www.straightdope.com/mailbag/mcop.html

garygnu
03-07-2006, 08:38 PM
"It's a fair cop" was used fairly regularly on Flying Circus, and in context, too.
It wasn't until I started watching that that I understood the line from Holy Grail.

ftg
03-07-2006, 09:23 PM
I am surprised how many (apparently US) people had not grown up knowing this phrase. I certainly knew it well pre-Python. I hadn't even thought of it as British outside of the comedic use.

Soylent Gene
03-07-2006, 09:48 PM
Ah, the power of Python....you ask a simple question which is answered immediately, then you get 20 more answers (and counting).

Northern Piper
03-08-2006, 10:12 AM
So I'm a slow typist! when I started my reply, no-one else had responded, and then I had to look up a cite, and then the formatting got wonky on preview....


grumble, grumble, grumble - no-one appreciates workmanship these days - grumble, grumble, grumble....

Captain Amazing
03-08-2006, 10:37 AM
Whether the phrase was actually used very much, I don't know. It sounds to me like the sort of thing Rumpole would expect to hear his better class of old-fashinoned career criminals say, not the young smash-and-grab types.

And actually, the phrase plays a role in one of Rumpole's cases.

Rumpole defends a teenager accused of murder. Rumpole knows that the case against the boy is weak. The only problem is, the boy signed a confession. Rumpole reads it, and realizes that it's filled with all sorts of phrases like, "It's a fair cop." that stage criminals might say, but that wouldn't be said by a West-Indian teenager in the 1970s. Rumpole manages to prove that the police invented the confession, and got the boy to sign it without knowing what he was signing, because the boy is illiterate.

Elendil's Heir
03-09-2006, 01:18 PM
Rube E. Tewesday, didn't the centurion (John Cleese, again?) who nabbed Brian say, "You're f***ing nicked, me old beauty?"

I love that phrase.

Rube E. Tewesday
03-09-2006, 03:47 PM
It's been sadly long since I've seen Life of Brian, but it sounds right.

For a beautiful take on the old school copper/villain dialectic, one can search back a few months in the Atlantic's obituaries. There was a lovely one for, IIRC, "Slipper of the Yard", the last of the old school coppers, nemesis of Ronnie Briggs, last of the old school villains.

Bytegeist
03-09-2006, 04:25 PM
I am surprised how many (apparently US) people had not grown up knowing this phrase. ... I hadn't even thought of it as British outside of the comedic use.

We just haven't got the hang of this phrase yet. We might need a session at the It's a Fair Cop Advice Centre.

What we'd like to do is start using the phrase in everyday conversation, with the wife. Something like, "Good morning dear ó it's a fair cop!" So we have something to say to each other, you see.

Robot Arm
03-09-2006, 05:18 PM
Oh, I see, sort of "Now look here! You may be Chairman but your bloody pusillanimous 'it's a fair cop' makes me vomit!" That sort of thing?

AncientHumanoid
03-09-2006, 05:23 PM
What is this ... Monty Python ... of which you speak?

It sounds silly.

Futile Gesture
03-09-2006, 05:47 PM
Of course, you also need to learn the converse;

"It's a rotten fit up, I never done it, and no mistake!"

Not A Tame Lion
03-09-2006, 06:12 PM
Of course, you also need to learn the converse;

"It's a rotten fit up, I never done it, and no mistake!"
Now that's classy!

Odinoneeye
03-09-2006, 10:58 PM
What is this ... Monty Python ... of which you speak?

It sounds silly.

Monty Python! That guy is hilarious!

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