Another Mencken footnote, from a brief discussion of Italian loan-words:
The word policy, which was used in the United States from about 1885 to 1915 to designate the form of gambling now called numbers , was from the Italian polizza . But it apparently came in by way of English, though with a change in meaning, and it is now virtually obsolete.The term policy certainly persisted in African-American culture. Here is an episode of the podcast Uncensored History of the Blues about playing policy.
H. L. Mencken, The American Language: An Inquiry into the Development of English in the United States , 4th ed. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1936).
The Oxford English Dictionary traces the gambling sense of policy to the Middle French police, “written proof, certificate.” The Dictionary traces another meaning of policy , “ a voting paper; (also) a voucher,” to polizza.
Also from The American Language
The American v. the Englishman : B.V.D. : “[N]o faculty so weak as the English faculty” : “There are words enough already” : The -thon , dancing and walking : The verb to contact