Posted by Bob on July 15, 2007
In Reply to: You dipstick posted by Smokey Stover on July 14, 2007
: : How long has the expression "You Dipstick" been around?
: : The reason I ask is that when the Austin 1800 came out in 1964 early examples suffered seized big ends - the problem was worse with careful private owners than commercial users. It took BMC 6 months to nail the problem which was due to an incorrectly calibrated dipstick that caused the counterweights on the crank to froth up the sump oil which in turn meant the oil pump could only send aerated oil to the big ends. Inadequate lubrication caused the engine to seize under warranty and a big bill to BMC.
: : Is this the origin of the expression "You dipstick" or was the expression around prior to October 1964?
: The use of dipstick to mean a stupid or contemptible person hasn't been shown for any earlier date than 1968 (OED) as far as I know. On the other hand, I strongly doubt that the misfortunes of the Austin 1800 gave rise to the transferred meaning. The word dip had approximately the same meaning (stupid or contemptible person) in the 1930s as dipstick has today.
: However, my theory is that some comic, probably on TV, coined the expletive, either because of its similarity to "dip," or possibly even because he was thinking of "dope." I don't know if this theory has any likelihood of being vindicated.
Smokey, the putdown "dips h i t" was around long before the '60s, which supports your theory of a euphemistic substitution for use on telelvision. I know Don Rickles (an insult comedian) has been using "dipstick" and "hockey puck" for decades for that purpose.