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Pip pip

Posted by Smokey Stover on May 14, 2007

In Reply to: Pip pip posted by Gerry Clist on May 13, 2007

: What is the origins of the English expression "pip pip", used when saying "goodbye"?

The Oxford English Dictionary believes it originates with an imitation of the sound of a car horn, or sometimes a bicycle horn. Although the OED doesn't say so, a couple of quick toots on the horn often are a signal to someone afoot, perhaps when you start to drive away from their house after a party, or when you see them on the street and wish to signal a sort of automotive "hello."

The OED, as always, has some examples.

1) In imitation of a car horn or bicycle horn:
1904 R. KIPLING Traffics & Discov. 324 Children sat..on the damp doorsteps to shout 'pip-pip' at the stranger. 1907 G. B. SHAW Major Barbara III. 292 Sarah (touching Lady Britomart's ribs with her finger tips and imitating a bicycle horn) Pip! pip! ...

2) For good-bye "Cf. toodle-pip int. at TOODLE-OO int. Derivatives Now chiefly arch."
1920 P. G. WODEHOUSE Damsel in Distress x. 129 'Well, it's worth trying,' said Reggie. 'I'll give it a whirl. Toodleoo!' 'Good-bye.' 'Pip-pip!' Reggie withdrew. 1931 E. F. BENSON Mapp & Lucia iii. 56 Mr. Woolgar..did not say 'So long' or 'Pip-pip'.

Note that the OED believes that "toodle-oo" derives from the sound of a car horn which goes "toot" or "tootles."

I suppose American car horns don't go toot or pip, but simply honk. That would account for the American bewilderment that a car horn could lead to either "toodle-oo" or "pip-pip".