Posted by Jim on December 05, 2001
In Reply to: Piker posted by R. Berg on December 05, 2001
: : In the midwest, "piker" is slang for a slothful individual, a welcher (more slang), and historically, a representative expatriate of Pike County, Kentucky (or Pike County, Missouri, or Pike County, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Alabama ...). In Australia, "piker" is a common slang word for "someone who holds back", particularly, an individual who doesn't drink heavy. Any insight on the origin and apparent international appeal of "piker"?
: The word has an obsolete meaning: "thief" (from "pick" + "-er"). Also used to mean a gambler who speculates; one who does things in a small way; tightwad; quitter, coward (Webster's, 1934).
: "Have you ever heard tell of sweet Betsy from Pike? She crossed the wide prairie with her lover Ike . . . " (Traditional folk song).
Thanks R. Berg. I'm including two references:
NOUN: Slang 1. A cautious gambler. 2. A person regarded as petty or stingy.
ETYMOLOGY: Possibly from Piker, a poor migrant to California, after Pike County in eastern Missouri.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by the Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
Call me a piker for picking your brain but "possibly" is what interests me. As I mentioned many states have Pike Counties (seperately interesting)and Australia has none. I'm curious how a slang word (with similar meanings) could appear in two very different places. Suggests that your reference (obsolete, thief) may be the common source, not former residence.