Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Am I Getting Old?

I might just be getting old.

I remember as a kid using the word "kype" all the time.

But today - when I put it in a posting - one of the editors wrote me the following: "Can you tell me what this should say? '... but a thief kypes his tools ...'"

So do you know what "kype" means? I'm curious .....

Dear Word Detective: As a child my father would warn us kids not to "kipe" ("kype") things, meaning "steal." Is this a real word or one made up? -- Pat Benson

Well, the two are not mutually exclusive. Aside from the fact that every word is a human creation, many of the words we use every day were invented by specific individuals. Norman Mailer, for instance, invented "factoid" in his book "Marilyn" published in 1973, and "gobbledygook" was coined by U.S. Rep. Maury Maverick during World War II to describe bureaucratic jargon and doubletalk. Rep. Maverick, incidentally, was the grandson of Samuel Maverick, the Texas cattleman who never branded his cows and whose name became a synonym for "wanderer" or "rebel."

You're absolute correct, however, to wonder about the legitimacy of "kipe," because it seems to be a word that now teeters on the brink of extinction. According to the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE), "kipe" or "kype" is found mostly in the western U.S., especially the Pacific Northwest, with some scattered usage in the Plains, Midwest and mid-Atlantic states. To judge by a discussion of the term on the American Dialect Society mailing list a few years ago, the variant form "kife" seems more common in the eastern states. To "kipe" (also spelled "kype" and "kipp") means "to steal or pilfer," with the same general sense as "swipe" of casually snatching something of small value (as opposed to robbing a bank, for instance). A citation in DARE from the Saturday Evening Post in 1968 gives a good sense of "kipe": "This typical teen-age shoplifter will brag to her friends about what she has "bagged," "hocked," "kyped" or "snitched," using the particular word that is common to the vernacular of her region." An indication of the fading use of "kipe" is that the later citations in DARE largely come from sources talking about using the word in their childhoods, not today.

The derivation of "kipe" is, as so often the case with slang terms, uncertain, but it may well have arisen as a modification of the now-obsolete English verb "to kip," meaning to take hold of or to snatch." This "kip," which first appeared in English around 1250, was based on the Old Norse verb "kippa," meaning "to snatch, tug or pull."

*sigh* .......................... Ruprecht ( STOP )

Oh ... and the photo above? Wrong kype, Sir .....

1 comment:

  1. One of my favorite "lines" (and, of course subsequently one of my kids least favorite) is "English is a living language, if it comes out of ones mouth with the intention of meaning something, it is a word. If you don't want me inventing new words, embrace Latin."