What does “copped a serve” mean and what is the origin of the expression?

By: | Post date: 2017-01-19 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: English, Linguistics

Vote #1 Danya Rose, who as far as I know has the right answer.

Danya Rose’s answer to What does “copped a serve” mean and what is the origin of the expression?

To my astonishment, OED does not have the phrase. It does have related phrases under cop, v. 3: “to capture, catch, lay hold of”:

  • to cop it “to be punished, to get into trouble”
  • to cop a packet [no definition]
  • to cop a plea “to plead guilty, usually as part of a bargain or agreement with the prosecution”
  • to cop a feel “to fondle someone in a sexual manner”

However, under serve, n. 2 we do find the almost identical phase to give (someone) a serve: “to deal roughly wit; to criticize or reprimand sharply”, described as Australian slang. The noun is derived from to serve, and there are three definitions given: “service, adoration” (Middle English); tennis service; and “a serving or helping of food” (“3 serves of the bacon”).

I don’t know enough about tennis to know why cop a serve wouldn’t be referencing tennis. OED does strongly suggest that’s the only way to interpret it..

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