While reading Salinger's Zooey, I've become curious what sense of copy is implied in the following fragment:

I've just finished decoding a long letter that came from Mother this morning... [...]

Dear Bessie. I get five hundred words of copy from her like clockwork every three months on the subject of my poor old private phone and how stupid it is to pay Good Money every month for something nobody's ever even around to use any more.

Of the senses provided by Wiktionary, I dither between:

  1. The text that is to be typeset
  2. The output of copywriters, who are employed to write material which encourages consumers to buy goods or services.
  3. The text of newspaper articles.
  • 2
    I always associate this use of "copy" with "copy-writing". In most common contexts, it would likely be the sense no. 2, with a little hint of sense no. 1. Commented Dec 18, 2013 at 16:17

1 Answer 1


"Copy" is just a word used in the newspaper and magazine business for "text", as in the text of an article or an advertisement. (I have no idea why they don't just say "text".)

All three definitions you give above mean pretty much the same thing. The text to be typeset is presumably the text of an article or advertisement.

  • 2
    They say copy because at the time printing was introduced to England, copy did not mean just a transcript or reproduction but any version, including the original from which transcripts were taken. Caxton himself wrote, in his preface to Le Morte Darthur, that "I accordyng to my copye haue doon sette it enprynte". Commented Dec 18, 2013 at 19:10
  • 1
    It could also be an implication of text which has been printed many times over. The quote states that the five hundred words of text arrives every three months, always about the same thing. At that point, it may as well be text which has just been copied, rewritten, rehashed, resent.
    – Doc
    Commented Dec 18, 2013 at 22:40
  • @Doc I'm afraid that is quite wrong. You are taking meaning from the word "copy" that does not exist. In this context, "copy" simply means "textual content". The other meaning does not leak over. They don't just say "text" because that is too general of a term. "Copy" means "content that will go into print, but isn't in the final layout form yet". Commented Oct 26, 2016 at 2:58

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