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What a rip-off

Posted by Smokey Stover on September 10, 2005

In Reply to: What a rip-off posted by R. Berg 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