Posted by R. Berg on September 10, 2005
In Reply to: What a rip-off posted by Smokey Stover on September 10, 2005
: : : Could you tell me the origins of the idiom "What a rip-off!" please?
: : I first heard "ripoff" in the 1960s as U.S. hippie slang. It was a popular word then. It's not in the 1960 edition of the Dictionary of American Slang.
: It is, however, in the OED: "[f. to rip off s.v. RIP v.2 6.]
: 1. One who steals, a thief.
: 1970 Manch. Guardian Weekly 2 May 16/4 'Who do you have on Haight Street today?' he [sc. a San Francisco drug peddler] said disgustedly... 'You have burn artists (fraudulent dope peddlers), rip-offs (thieves), and snitchers (police spies).'...
: 2. A fraud, a swindle; a racket; an instance of exploitation, esp. financial.
: 1970 Melody Maker 12 Sept. 29 Rip off, capitalist exploitation. 1970 Time 21 Dec. 4/1 This is what, in contemporary parlance, is called a rip-off....
: 3. An imitation or plagiarism, usu. one made in order to exploit public taste.
: 1971 Newsweek 18 Oct. 38/3 Most of the architecture is Inspired Bastard, most of the historical re-creations are Shameless Ripoff. 1974 Publishers Weekly 4 Mar. 72/2 This kaleidoscopic fantasy, a ripoff on everything from spy novels to the Oedipus complex....
: 4. a. attrib. passing into adj.
: 1971 National Times (Austral.) 15-20 Feb. 1/3 In Sydney comics and books have been appearing from the 'rip-off' press--the underground printers and publishers who are printing editions of banned books sneaked singly through Customs.....
: b. Comb., as rip-off artist, merchant, one who carries out a rip-off; a thief, fraud, or racketeer.
: 1971 Frendz 21 May 11/2 Rip-off artists are only occasionally armed or violent; more usual is..the traditional con~man. 1971 J. MANDELKAU Buttons xiii. 149 From now on my club was going to have nought to do with the Alternative society and its rip-off merchants. 1974 Amer. Speech 1970 XLV. 210 Bring your own food. There won't be any ripoff merchants there...."
: The points of ellipsis indicate that I have omitted many of the OED citations. The dates are, of course, those of printed appearances of the word. Bergie undoubtedly heard the word correctly as 1960s slang. SS
Haight St. was the center (cultural, not geographical) of hippieness.
I think "rip off," the verb phrase, came before "ripoff," noun and adjective. I don't know the conceptual basis, but I imagine it was the mental picture of a robber grabbing a victim's clothing or wallet, as in "He ripped my jacket right off me."