Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


I’VE BEEN savoring the annotated version of Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep. Annotations, bibliography, and all, the book is 474 pages long, and I feel no urgency to finish it. I recall reading Chandler mysteries, sans annotations, years ago. I saw the Bogart/Bacall Big Sleep at least three times. I’ve written about Chandler’s similes and metaphors here at SimanaitisSays.

The Annotated Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler, edited and annotated by Owen Hill, Pamela Jackson, and Anthony Dean Rizzuto, Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, 2018.

The wealth of Chandler’s enticing and elegant prose encourages Parts 1 and 2, today and tomorrow, of etymologies and commentary from The Annotated Big Sleep, together with some further annotations of my own based on Internet sleuthing.

Etymology: Cop. I hadn’t realized that cop and copper were related to the phrase “to cop a feel.” A Big Sleep footnote tells me they all come from the Latin “copere, ‘to capture’ or ‘to seize,’ thus the term ‘to cop a feel.’ One who captures would be a ‘copper,’ shortened back to ‘cop.’ ”

Etymology: Buzzer and Dick. Marlowe is casing bookshops. He encounters “a small dark woman reading a law book at a desk… in a narrowed cluttered little shop stacked with books from floor to ceiling….”

Bogey as Marlowe with bookstore research assistant Dorothy Malone in The Big Sleep.

“I flipped my wallet open on her desk,” he says, “and let her look at the buzzer pinned to the flap.”

A footnote says, “buzzer: A police or detective’s badge.”

“I’m a private dick on a case,” he tells the woman. Its annotation: “The term probably came into popular use with reference to Dick Donovan, protagonist in mysteries written by Joyce Emmerson Preston Muddock, first published in the ‘penny dreadfuls’ (forerunners to the pulps) in the late nineteenth century.”

Annotating an Annotation. Indeed, according to Wikipedia, James Edward Preston Muddock, 1843–1934, aka Joyce Emmerson Preston Muddock aka Dick Donovan, “was a prolific British journalist and author of mystery and horror fiction. For a time his detective stories were as popular as those of Arthur Conan Doyle.”

Tomorrow in Part 2, annotations (and annotations of them) describe car tops, house doors, and my all-time favorite noir line. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2019


  1. ’Michael Rubin
    October 29, 2019

    Splendid, Dennis. Now I know what I’ll request for Christmas. In the meantime, given the ‘devil winds’ here in Northern California and the Santa Ana’s blowing in Southern California, it’s appropriate to think of ‘meek little wives thumbing their carving knives and eyeing their husband’s throats.’

  2. David Rees
    November 5, 2019

    Right near the top of one of my favorite films of all time. Thanks Dennis.

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