A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from May 23, 2005
"G.O.P." (or "GOP") for "Grand Old Party" (the Republican Party) was printed in the Wichita (KS) Weekly Beacon on November 39, 1881. There is some debate about who first coined "GOP." The 1931 story below is interesting, but the 1884 date is too late.

Was "GOP" simply a shortening for a headline, or was it influenced by the English use of "GOM " (the Grand Old Man, William Gladstone) of this period?

Origin of "GOP"
A favorite of headline writers, GOP dates back to the 1870s and '80s. The abbreviation was cited in a New York Herald story on October 15, 1884; "' The G.O.P. Doomed,' shouted the Boston Post.... The Grand Old Party is in condition to inquire...."

But what GOP stands for has changed with the times. In 1875 there was a citation in the Congressional Record referring to "this gallant old party," and , according to Harper's Weekly, in the Cincinnati Commercial in 1876 to "Grand Old Party."

Perhaps the use of "the G.O.M." for Britain's Prime Minister William E. Gladstone in 1882 as " the Grand Old Man" stimulated the use of GOP in the United States soon after.

In early motorcar days, GOP took on the term "get out and push." During the 1964 presidential campaign, "Go-Party" was used briefly, and during the Nixon Administration, frequent references to the "generation of peace" had happy overtones. In line with moves in the '70s to modernize the party, Republican leaders took to referring to the "grand old party," harkening back to a 1971 speech by President Nixon at the dedication of the Eisenhower Republican Center in Washington, D.C.

Indeed, the "grand old party" is an ironic term, since the Democrat Party was organized some 22 years earlier in 1832.

15 December 2002. New York (NY) Times, "W.S.J.: G.O.P., R.I.P." by William Safire, magazine section 6, pg. 48, col. 1:
In the now-outmoded Wall Street Journal ''Guide to Business Style and Usage,'' edited by Paul R. Martin and published way back in 2002, the entry on ''GOP'' reads, ''It is an acceptable synonym for the Republican Party, without spelling out Grand Old Party.''

But The Journal, it is a-changin'.
(Unlike The Post and The Journal, The Times insists on periods after each letter.)
But G.O.P is universally pronounced gee-oh-pee -- by its initials -- and never as the word ''gop,'' rhyming with ''cop.''
Because I intend to keep using G.O.P. in this space, here is its etymology (and you'd better not forget it, because I won't repeat it). The earliest recorded use of the unabbreviated, capitalized phrase was in The Cincinnati Commercial in 1876. (Soon after, Britain's prime minister, William Gladstone, was being called the Grand Old Man, initialized to G.O.M.) Barry Popik, an etymologist has found the earliest use so far in a Dec. 1, 1883, Washington weekly called The Hatchet, referring to a book that was ''a work of most rare cunning and of the utmost importance to the G.O.P.''

30 November 1881, Wichita (KS) Weekly Beacon, pg. 2, col. 1:
... and in 1874, when "Retrenchment and Reform" threatened to carry the state and swamp the "grand old party," Saint John did not join in the cry, but stuck to the g. o. p.

21 December 1881, Wichita (KS) Weekly Beacon, pg. 2, col. 4:
It does our soul good to witness the squirming of the organs of the grand old party under the infliction of the proclamation of the official head of the g. o. p.

4 September 1882, The Morning News (Savannah, GA), pg. 3, col. 1:
The Rochester (N. Y.) Union dubs the Republican party the G. O. P. (grand old party). The initials will be eminently appropriate next year. It will then become the "gone old party."

3 November 1882, Washington (DC) Post, pg. 2:
The g.o.p. will try to deputy-marshal the wicked Democrats of the old North State.

5 November 1882, Boston (MA) Daily Globe, pg. 6:

Chronicling America
8 July 1884, St. Paul (MN) Daily Globe, pg. 6, col. 1:
The enthusiastic youths of the Eighth ward who are great and distinguished members of the g. o. p., so-called, made an attempt last evening, in verbose exuberance, to create a "whooping", Blaine boom, but it was an ignominious failure.

6 September 1892, Los Angeles (CA) Times, pg. 4:
Small boy - Papa, what does G.O.P. mean?
Papa - It means Grover Ousted Permanently, my son. Now, run along and tell it to the other boys. - National Bulletin.

23 June 1931, Chicago (IL) Daily Tribune, pg. 16:
G.O.P. Means Grim Old
Poverty; Organization Broke

28 October 1931, Los Angeles (CA) Times, pg. A4:
By the Printer Himself
(See the next article - ed.)

8 November 1931, Washington (DC) Post, pg. M7:
G. O. P., Meaning Republicans,
Invention of Printer Boy, 16
To the Editor of The Post - Sir:

The origin and evolution of the abbreviation "G. O. P.," meaning the "Grand Old Party," has been locked up in my mind for many years, and probably would have stayed locked had not the depression ceased my activities and caused me to live at times in the past. For this reason I am letting out a secret.

Realizing that history is not history unless it is correct, and as the author of the abbreviation, I am writing this because I am now the only living authority who can give authentic information on this question to the historians of the Republican party.

It was in the palmy days of the eighties - '84, to be exact. As a lad with six months' experience in a hillbilly print shop, I struck out for Cincinnati, and landed plump in the office of the old Gazette. In those days type was set by hand, and printers were always needed - almost any kind. It was 2:30 a.m. when I got a piece of copy off the "hook" marked "must go in ten lines." Of course it meant in "ten lines or less," but in order to make it reach ten lines I began setting thetype with very wide spacing between the words. When I had reached the end of the tenth line, I found that even with narrow spacing, I had two words left over. Breaking out into a nervous sweat, mind uncoordinated, not being familiar with back spacing, and wanting to hold my job, I called to the foremansaying "My copy ends with 'Grand Old Party,' and I have two words left over. What shall I do - what must I do with them?"

"Oh, hell!" snorted the busy foreman, as he was closing up the final page, "throw them away and use your intelligence. Get 'em in, cut 'em short, crowd 'em in, abbreviate 'em, use initials, or do something, and hurry up! This page is late."

I followed his last instruction and did "something," the type being hurried to the front page form without any proof reading. When the paper came out, the last sentence of the item read: "The Hon. James G. Blaine will address the meeting on the 'Achievements of the Gop.'"

That night the Academy was packed, for everybody in those days read the Gazette. Mr. Blaine spoke for over two hours on the "Achievements of the Grand Old Party," with frequent and uproarious applause. When he had finished speaking, some one in the gallery asked him to say something about the "Gop." Now, Mr. Blaine had been shown the item by a member of the reception committee and knew what his questioner meant.

"Why, my friend," he said, "I have been talking about the 'Gop' all evening. Don't you know what the 'Gop' means? The word 'Gop' contains the initial letters of the Grand Old Party, and that is its official and abbreviated form." Then turning to the editor of the Gazette, who was sitting on the stage, he said: "Isn't that so, Mr. Halstead?"

The audience roared, but Blaine never smiled. That settled it right there, and "Gop" held its own for a long time. Then fussy proof readers got to decorating it with periods, and it finally evolved into "G. O. P."

Los Angeles, Calif.

12 June 1952, Washington (DC) Post, pg. 2:
W. Averell Harriman said today the Republican Party "has been captured by the weepers and wailers" who have made GOP mean "grim old pessimists."

4 March 1969, Washington (DC) Post, pg. B1:
Jimmy Joyce, a comic, came on strong with some lines that were, if irrelevant, still good enough to draw solid guffaws: "An Episcopal Bishop - that's a Jesuit who flunked Latin...I come from the occupied section of Boston, where GOP means Genuflect Or Perish."

15 July 1980, Washington (DC) Post, pg. B1:
They expressed their feelings in chants and placards "Ratify ERA, Not Reagan," "Does GOP Mean Grand Old Pig?"

1 December 1985, Newsday (Long Island, NY), pg. 5:
The takeovers began in earnest last year. Christian conservatives took giant steps toward making the GOP "God's Own Party" in Texas and Minnesota.

December 2000, YAHOO! Internet Life, pg. 82, col. 2, has "slice of slang"
taken from Maledicta, reprinted in
A "Republican pizza" is a "GOP" -- green peppers, onions, pepperoni.
Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Military/Religion /Health • Monday, May 23, 2005 • Permalink