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Not much chop
Posted: 23 June 2012 04:25 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Is this phrase, meaning not very good, known in North America?

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Posted: 23 June 2012 05:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Not to me; this is the first I’ve heard of it.

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Posted: 23 June 2012 06:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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But chops, as in “the actor showed his chops,” is rather common.

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Posted: 23 June 2012 12:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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There’s a similar phrase in British English though, “not much cop”, meaning not very good.  OED says that goes back to pre-WWI army slang for an acquisition of little worth. Apparently that is derived from a slang verb “to cop”, a broad or dialect pronunciation of “to cap” meaning to catch (possibly from French caper, to seize), which seems to have appeared in English in the late 16th c.

OED also has “not much chop” as the Aus/NZ variant, first citation going back to 1909.  That’s nearly as old as their first citation for “not much cop” - 1902.

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Posted: 24 June 2012 06:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Never heard either the cop or chop version in my parts of the US.

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Posted: 25 June 2012 02:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I (born in London 1956 and bred up there, resident in London and Kent all my life) have never ever knowingly heard of or read not much chop, although not much cop is an everyday phrase to me. It may possibly be a bit passé: I can’t recall hearing it in the mouths of da yoof recently.

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Posted: 25 June 2012 03:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I didn’t find the phrase unfamiliar, and I’m sure I heard it in South Africa.  When I returned to the UK in the 80s, “not much cop” sounded a bit odd at first, maybe because I’d heard the “chop” version in SA. Google “not much chop” and “.za” and you get a few hits.

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Posted: 26 June 2012 03:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I remember an interview with Big Jim Sullivan, a British session guitarist active in the 60s, in The Word magazine this year, and he said “I had good chops but John McLaughlin was the best I ever heard...” so it’s not just actors.

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Posted: 26 June 2012 04:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I think of the phrase primarily in connection with musicians; I’m not sure I was aware actors used it.  I guess it all depends what circles you frequent.

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Posted: 26 June 2012 05:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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The term arose among jazz musicians, but has spread to other fields.

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Posted: 26 June 2012 05:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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I’ve always assumed it was tied into the term “ax” for your instrument. If you’re good with your ax, you’ve got chops.

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Posted: 26 June 2012 07:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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I have heard “chops” as in “skills with an instrument” for as long as I can remember. That’s at least as far back as the early-mid 1960’s.

I never thought or considered it related to “axe” as in “chopping with an axe.” Even though “axe” does usually mean instrument. 

I always thought it was more like “baring one’s teeth.” I have heard “He’s got a good set of chops.”

There is also “bust his chops” meaning, (I thought) to figuratively or even literally strike in the mouth.

As for the OP: “not much chop"--I do not recall hearing it. Also, I do not recall hearing “cop” used interchangeably with “chop.”

I personally sense there to be a distinct difference in the two phrases: “Cop some wine” and “Chop some wine,” with “cop” being more like “to acquire,” and “chop” being more like “to take,” “to steal,” or “to rip-off.”

This is anecdotal, from personal experience.

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Posted: 26 June 2012 08:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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The musical chops date to the 1940s. It’s related to the sense of chops meaning “mouth.” The musical chops first applied to horn players.

Although a connection to axe is a good guess.

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Posted: 26 June 2012 11:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Dave Wilton - 26 June 2012 08:48 AM

The musical chops date to the 1940s. It’s related to the sense of chops meaning “mouth.” The musical chops first applied to horn players.

Although a connection to axe is a good guess.

I wonder if axe in this sense might be from chops.  When does axe date from referring to a musical instrument?

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Posted: 26 June 2012 12:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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First cite in OED is 1955, the usual meaning back then being a saxophone rather than a guitar. I’m sure the specialist slang dictionaries can come up with earlier cites.

axe, n.1

5. A musical instrument; formerly esp. a saxophone, now usu. a guitar. slang (chiefly Jazz and Rock Music).

1955 L. Feather Encycl. Jazz (1956) 345 Ax, axe, horn, instrument (usually saxophone).

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Posted: 26 June 2012 01:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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So it could be just a clipped version of sax.

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