Why Do People Call Coffee "Joe"? You Can Thank This Naval Secretary

Mustafa Gatollari - Author

Mar. 24 2022, Published 11:51 a.m. ET

Why is Coffee Called Joe
Source: Getty

People come up with silly names for things that seemingly make no sense whatsoever. Take the word "cap" for instance. It became a slang term that just means "lie," as dumb as that sounds. It's got the same number of letters and syllables, and when you look into how it got started, it turns out it was all because some folks misunderstood a popular song lyric.

But slang terms come and go all of the time. Then, there are those that stand the test of time — like how people call coffee "joe." So, how did the caffeinated beverage get its nickname?

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Why is coffee called "joe"?

The year is 1913. A total buzzkill by the name of Josephus Daniels was the secretary of the Navy. This nerd thought it'd be a good idea to banish alcohol from naval vessels, probably because he didn't like a bunch of members of the United States military getting hammered on the open seas.

In theory, it makes a lot of sense: You don't want a bunch of sexually repressed trained fighters who are locked aboard on a boat for extended periods of time to get drunk. It's not difficult to imagine that this could lead to some rowdy behavior and potentially gnarly fights that would culminate in folks getting thrown in the brig, if not overboard and killed.

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Coffee being poured into a cup
Source: Getty

As a result of Josephus's decision to ban booze aboard military ships, more and more sailors began drinking coffee. Some folks were said to have attributed the increased consumption of the beverage to the naval secretary. A lot of coffee drinkers were probably born solely out of the fact they couldn't get their hands on beer or liquor as they sailed the seven seas.

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Source: Twitter | @USNHistory

The Roasterie writes: "As the story goes, on June 1, 1914, Secretary Joe issued General Order 99. Order 99 prohibited alcohol aboard naval vessels. From then on, the strongest drink of any kind allowed on naval ships has been coffee."

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Source: Twitter | @mrtysonandrews

The outlet goes on to suggest that the moniker wasn't exactly a term of endearment, but one given to coffee out of "spite."

Prior to the issuance of Order 99, sailors were given a daily allotment of rum, but even that was taken away under Order 99.

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There are other theories as to why coffee is called "joe."

If you're compiling a list of "everyman" names, Joe is probably your first or second choice. It's been said that because coffee is considered the drink of the everyman, it only makes sense that people would refer to the hot bean juice by the first name. But we're not exactly convinced. After all, it's not like folk affectionately call caviar "Edmont," "Duke Coxlebury" or any other name that's as bourgeois as the expensive salt-cured roe.

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Source: Twitter | @SoxofWhite

Others believe that "joe" is simply an abbreviated version of other names for coffee: java and jamoke.

We like the Josephus theory best.

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