Posted by Brian from Shawnee on February 06, 2005
In Reply to: Re: Corrected "to stiff" == not to pay the bill? posted by Smokey Stover on February 05, 2005
: : : What's the origin of "to stiff" someone, meaning not to pay what is due him?
: The OED gives the meaning in which you are interested: " 3. To cheat; to refuse to pay or tip (a person). slang (orig. and chiefly U.S.)." It does not explain, and I believe that it must be from before 1950, the date of its first citation. Folk etymologies :(especially mine) are usually wrong, but I'm guessing that the origin could be in the game of American football, in which the ball-carrier keeps from being tackled by stiff-arming anyone trying to bring him down, if he can't just outrun him. I lost patience trying to Google up a useful entry. SS
I have another folk etymology theory: "to stiff" as in "to shaft" or "to screw". There are other synonyms but I hope you get the idea.