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Old 06-05-2003, 05:41 PM
Join Date: Feb 2000
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Origin of slang term "Five-O" in reference to police officers

I've always wondered about this. How old is this term and where does it come from? Also, is it "Five-O," as in the word "oh," or is it "five zero."
I'm also wondering how, if at all, this ties into the old tv show Hawaii Five-O? In that case, does "Five-O" come from the fact that they are cops, or that Hawaii is the 50th state, or both? Does the current usage of "five-o" predate the TV show?
Old 06-05-2003, 05:48 PM
Join Date: Sep 2002
Posts: 353
ever paid careful attention to the sound a police siren makes? 5 Distincts tones can be made out before a long pause...and then the cycles repeats. Hence five-0.
Old 06-05-2003, 06:50 PM
BF BF is offline
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IIRC, "Five-O" is derived from the show, Five-Oh. The Five-O was a fictitious special police force (state Police) that took it's orders from the governor. I don't know when/how this slang became another phrase for Johnny Law, the cops, the pol-eece, etc.
Old 06-05-2003, 07:30 PM
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The show was "Hawaii Five-0"

"Five-0" standing for Hawai'i's status as the 50th state.
Old 06-05-2003, 07:40 PM
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Location: Kingston, Ontario
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The Hawaii Five-O FAQ supports BF and BobT:

Is there a real "Hawaii Five-O" -- a state police agency?
No. Guidebooks have to keep telling tourists that Hawaii does not and never did have a state police force.

Why was it called Five-O, anyway?
Hawaii was the fiftieth state in the union. (The original title was "The Man," but producer Leonard Freeman changed his mind.)
Same site:

Is it Five-O (as in "oh") or Five-0 (as in "zero")?
This is a matter of debate. According to Viacom, who distribute the show, it is zero. But the Five-O soundtrack album, released in the late 60's, uses "oh."
Old 06-05-2003, 07:47 PM
Graphite is a great
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The show premiered in '68. The first cite of the term to describe generic police is in the NYT, 1983, in an article which implied that it was not uncommon and probably used before that ('83) date.

It never existed before the show premiered.
Old 06-05-2003, 07:52 PM
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: The Golden State
Posts: 10,565
As someone who watched the show far too much as a child, I can tell you that it was always "Five-Oh". That's how all the characters pronounced it.
Old 06-05-2003, 08:14 PM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Kingston, Ontario
Posts: 34
BobT, unless I'm misreading the question (or your response), the issue isn't one of pronunciation. Certainly it's pronounced five oh. But a 401k is also pronounced four oh one, typically, even though it's a zero between the 4 and 1. So the question is whether it's Five-0 or Five-o.

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