What is the meaning of the text in bold:

He says if London cops it, he'll cop it. And not to worry, Dad.

I have found these meanings for cop in The Free Dictionary, but none of them seem relevant to the sentence.

1. cop 2
tr.v. copped, cop·ping, cops
a. To get hold of; gain or win
b. To perceive by one of the senses

2. To take unlawfully or without permission; steal.

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  • 2
    Think of 'cop' as meaning 'get'. "If London gets it, he'll get it". 'It' presumably being a nuclear blast. Jul 2, 2015 at 10:38
  • Unfortunately for one trying to understand this in isolation, "cop" has multiple, relatively unrelated, meanings. But David's comment sounds to be a good guess.
    – Hot Licks
    Jul 2, 2015 at 11:01
  • 3
    Given that the book/movie is about a nuclear attack on Britain, and the previous lines refer to building a bomb shelter, it's reasonable to assume that "London" refers to the city. I doubt that the writer would have named a character "London" simply because it would be too confusing and distracting.
    – Hot Licks
    Jul 2, 2015 at 11:08
  • 1
    This question should be reopened, the OP did do her research and as clearly shown, the meaning of the verb "cop" in "somebody will cop it", appears to be not covered by the definition. It is not at all obvious the meaning of the phrase cited by the OP, especially since it is BrEng slang.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 21, 2015 at 6:21
  • 1
    It deserved to stay opened, and besides I used to be a Londoner myself, so I couldn't bear to see a BrEng slang question being imprisoned :)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 23, 2015 at 17:29

2 Answers 2


In British English 'cop it' can mean a few things but one of two of those things is certainly being referred to. From http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/cop:

1.2 (cop it) British Get into trouble:
will you cop it from your dad if you get back late?
1.3 (cop it) British Be killed:
he almost copped it in a horrific accident

London is the city. The story is about nuclear war and Ron is referring to London being hit by a thermonuclear bomb. Both definitions would apply to that but I think the 'be killed' definition is the most likely. London would be annihilated and that could be thought of as being killed. Ron could hardly 'get' the blast without being killed. Calling being hit by a nuclear explosion as 'getting into trouble' would be to ridiculously understate it (he is British though, so that is a possibility).

That the immediate conclusion to the statement is that Ron is not going to build a shelter confirms this: Ron has said he will die if London dies.

  • Jinx! Beat me to it by nine seconds (though I got there first with the comment). Jul 2, 2015 at 11:27
  • @JanusBahsJacquet Hehe yes. If I had know you were too I would have typed faster. Both answers are much of a muchness. I'm happy to delete. Do you want to copy anything from mine before I do?
    – Avon
    Jul 2, 2015 at 11:28
  • 1
    No reason to delete either—the fact that two answers say the same thing is only a problem if one comes a long time after the other. When they’re simultaneous, we usually just leave both. :-) Jul 2, 2015 at 11:40
  • 1
    @Soudabeh I did by a resounding nine seconds! :) Please tick whichever you feel answers it best (or indeed wait for a better answer).
    – Avon
    Jul 2, 2015 at 14:45
  • @Mari-LouA I already have.
    – Avon
    Jul 23, 2015 at 15:56

The verb to cop has quite a few meanings, the most basic of which is ‘seize, grab’. The sense relevant here is definition 1.1 (of the verb) as given in the Oxford Dictionaries Online article:

Incur (something unwelcome)

If you cop something, it is forced on to you, you get it without wanting it. You can cop the blame for something; you can cop a bad deal from someone (meaning that you’re treated unfairly by them); you can cop one (‘one’ referring here to a punch) on the side of the head, etc.

Idiomatically, when you cop it (definitions 1.2 and 1.3), the ‘it’ in question can either be trouble in general, or more specifically death, which seems to be the sense intended here. So when you cop it, you incur death—in other words, you’re killed.

It’s a very colloquial, perhaps even slangy, expression, but it’s common enough in British English. In the script excerpt he, Ron is saying he accepts that if London gets killed (= blown to smithereens) in a nuclear blast, then he will get killed too.

  • Penny for the blind, mister. Hey, fancy voting to reopen this question? Only one vote missing.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 23, 2015 at 15:59
  • 1
    @Mari-LouA Done! Didn’t realise it had been closed. Jul 23, 2015 at 16:00
  • Alleluia. Thank you sir, very grateful I am. Much obliged! (sound of bowing and scraping of shoes)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 23, 2015 at 16:02

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