Perhaps all of us have heard the phrase “a cup of Joe” as a slang name when it comes to coffee. However, not everyone understands why is coffee called a cup of Joe. FriedOkra has learned 4 interesting theories around this name. Let’s find out with us!
The theory of Josephus Daniels
When anyone thinks of slang terms for coffee, “cup of joe” is almost always the first thing that comes to mind. As you might have guessed, the term originated in America in the 20th century, sometime between World War I and the early 1930s.
The exact source is not exactly known, although there are quite a few opinions. about where the phrase was first used. Here are some of the top theories about the origin of the term and how it became so widespread across the US and eventually around the world.
This is the word often presented as the source of the term, although many experts consider it unlikely to be true. The story goes that during World War 1, Josephus Daniels was secretary of the Navy under President Woodrow Wilson and was famous for imposing strict rules that the entire Navy had to follow.
One of the most notorious decisions was to completely ban any alcohol at all naval bases, meaning that coffee was the strongest drink available to sailors. As a result, coffee is derogatorily referred to as “Joseph’s cup,” and ultimately, “joe cup.”
The main reason this theory has been criticized is that the earliest mention of a “soft drink cup” found in any document is in 1930, 16 years after Josephus Daniels gave that order. This doesn’t necessarily make it impossible, but it certainly makes it look pretty unlikely.
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Average drink for the average man
The second hypothesis is that when coffee became popular, people attached a common name to it. During the 1930s and 1940s, coffee became increasingly popular and coffee became a regular drink of military personnel. Many men in the military and nicknames G.I. Joe is a normal person. Thus, “cup of Joe” could be a proverbial way of referring to an average person’s drink. An ordinary person drinks coffee, so why not call it by the name of an ordinary man?
Why is coffee called a cup of Joe: Combination of terms
Nicknames may have evolved from different terms for coffee. During the 1930s, mocha and java also became common coffee terms. Some people think that “Joe” is a combination of shortened java and mocha. Phrases and words have been formed this way before in history, and it’s likely the same goes for this moniker.
Today’s younger generations are probably familiar with nicknames like mocha or java for coffee, even if they don’t use them often. These terms appeared for most of the 20th century, and back in the 1930s, people combined them into “jamoke”.
Whether it’s because they can’t get over their obvious obsession with renaming things, or because they realize that “jamoke” is ridiculous, some people may have shortened it to “Joe.”
Linguists who like this argument point out that many slang terms are constantly undergoing reduction. Just look at the evolution of “what’s going on” and you get the picture.
Why is coffee called a cup of Joe: Trademark
The term “Joe’s cup” was actually trademarked by the Martinson coffee company, regardless of who uttered the phrase first. In 1898 Joe Martinson founded the company in New York. Locals who often buy his coffee call it “Joe’s coffee” or “Joe’s cup”. It’s easy to believe that this phrase could have started in a big city like New York. Since so many people come and go from New York, the phrase may have spread this way.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is Coffee called “Java”?
The Dutch colonized the island of Java in the 17th century and almost immediately began growing coffee trees to take advantage of the island’s climate and equatorial location. The Dutch commercial empire at the time was vast, and as Europe began to develop a taste for coffee, “java” became a generic term for coffee.
What does “Jamocha” mean?
“Jamocha” means coffee, now often combined with chocolate. The word comes from the combination of two famous coffee growing regions, Java and Mocha, two of the most popular sources of coffee. Java (see the previous question) is an Indonesian island on which the Dutch have established extensive coffee plantations.
Mocha is a port on the Red Sea that supplies some of the world’s best coffee from the Arabian Peninsula. Together they form the word “jamocha”, which is now commonly associated with ice cream or other frozen confections made from coffee and chocolate.
To the question of why is coffee called a cup of Joe, FriedOkra thinks each of us will have our own answer. Do you have any other interesting theories? Please share with us!
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