Most people I guess will immediately think of a cop, short for copper, being a policeman… well yes, but it is also used as a verb meaning to catch hold of something. “Cop this!” “Cop a look at that!” “Cop hold of the end of the rope!” You can guess that a copper is someone who catches or takes something, and therefore a copper became a policeman who took hold of a thief or wrong-doer.
When I was young if something wasn’t much good, we would say “It’s not much cop,” but I don’t know if that was a common phrase at the time, or just a local Cambridge saying, or whether I got it from my dad who would have used it before the war… I really don’t know. If you copped out of something, you avoided doing it, but if you copped off with someone it was likely to end up as a very intimate encounter! This is different from copping on, which means understanding or realising something.
Mow Cop is a little village on the border of Shropshire and Cheshire and many people may have seen it although not realising what it was as they pass by on the M6 motorway. here the Cop part of the name means head or top because it is right on top of a very pointy hill. The castle is a folly, not a real castle, but it is very dramatic all the same. I first read about Mow Cop before I ever saw it, in ‘Red Shift’ an amazing book by Alan Garner which I came across having read his four previous books, The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, The Moon of Gomrath, Elidor and The Owl Service as a child. If you’ve not come across these fantastic books which knock Harry Potter into a cocked hat, then please try and find them and read them to your children or yourself!
Picture by N.M.Watson