Why Do We Say “Cup of Joe”?

One of the most common ways to encourage someone to save money or donate to a charity is to use the phrase, “for just the cost of a cup of coffee…” You’ve heard that right? You’ve probably even said it yourself. This works because we are so connected to coffee that our brains don’t have to think much to easily summon up the price of the steaming beverage.

While the phrase works, it is a little wordy. If they ever wanted to shorten it to fit on bumper sticker I would recommend the tagline, “say no to Joe!”

Other than sounding like a 1950s presidential campaign slogan, the phase would work because any coffee drinker knows that their beverage is commonly referred to as a cup of Joe.

Everyone has heard of a cup of Joe, but who knows where that phrase came from? Who is this legendary Joe?

Let’s find out in today’s Wonder Why Wednesday

In order to find our answer, we need to flash back to the 1914 U.S. Navy. At the time, Josephus Daniels was secretary to the Navy under president Woodrow Wilson. Apparently, the Navy was a mess back then.

In order to clean things up, Daniels decided to increase the number of chaplains and reduce the number of prostitutes (yes, you read that correctly). In addition to all that, Daniels also banned alcohol.

The service men and women were none too happy about the ban of booze (no mention of how they felt about the chaplains or prostitutes). To replace their missing wine, they started drinking the next strongest drink they could find…coffee.

The sailors nicknamed the drink after the one responsible for forcing everyone to change. They started calling it a “cup of Joe” in regards to their chief Josephus Daniels.

Now we know where the phrase “cup of Joe” comes from. We also know that the Navy used to be full or drunk philanderers.

Learn something new (and discouraging) every day.

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