Another "gyp" theory

Posted by ESC on April 17, 2001

In Reply to: Gyp and gypsies posted by R. Berg on April 17, 2001

: : : : : : : : : I belive this pertains to the past tense of hving been in the company of a gypsie/gypsy, and being tricked out of your money or whatever as in "I've been gypdt'. How would you spell gyptd correctly and what is the meaninbg/origin??

: : : : : : : : The word is gypped or gyped as related to gypsy.

: : : : : : : : Quite stereotypical and racist to link a whole group of people to being thieves.

: : : : : : : : The Roma have been made up of many different groups of people from the very beginning, and have absorbed outsiders throughout their history. Because they arrived in Europe from the East, they were thought by the first Europeans to be from Turkey or Nubia or Egypt, or any number of vaguely acknowledged non-European places, and they were called, among other things, Egyptians or 'Gyptians, which is where the word "Gypsy" comes from. In some places, this Egyptian identity was taken entirely seriously, and was no doubt borrowed by the early Roma themselves. In the 15th century, James the Fifth of Scotland concluded a treaty with a local Romani leader pledging the support of his armies to help recover "Little Egypt" (an old name for Epirus, on the Greek-Albanian coast) for them.

: : : : : : : HEY - Who are you to call me a racist ? ? I am looking for the meaning and/or origin of this word, and not a lecture about a politicly correct attitude as consternation. Now find the word for me, and the meaning, or origin. I am not responsible for what the word infers. I want to know exactly what it means, and the origin. So -put up some info, or shut up and disregard my search.

: : : : : : Excuse me, Randall. May I make a few points? Bruce's reply might easily mean that the people who invented the word "gyp" for thievery were doing something racist, not that you are a racist. His posting doesn't provide me with evidence that he was accusing you of something--and that means it doesn't provide you with such evidence, either. He gave you the info you asked for: the spelling of the past tense and confirmation of the link with gypsies. The people who answer queries on this site are all volunteers. We donate our time and the use of our reference books and our knowledge of informative websites as a service to those who come with questions. Giving orders is not appropriate, particularly an order to shut up.

: : : : : OK.. I appreciate the correct spelling information. I would really appreciate the info about the word/phrase "I've been gypped/gyped"; as to meaning and possible origin.

: : : : The dictionaries say "gyp" is PROBABLY from "gypsy" and it means to swindle, cheat, defraud, or steal; it originally had to do with crooked horse trading. "Gyp" is identified as "U.S. slang" in one dictionary and merely "informal" in another. The double P is preferred in the spelling for the past tense. "I've been gypped" means I've been cheated.

: : : A similar 'racist' expression is 'to welsh on someone'. I believed this has nothing to do with the Welsh, but where did it come from? Type 'Welsh' in the search to find out - it does refer to the Welsh.

: : Stereotypically speaking (and portrayed in the movies). Gypsy's were Greek nomadic traveling tribes that would set temporary camp in a somewhat populated area to swindle a town out of money by selling phony potions (ie: that would make you stronger or make hair grow)-and sometimes phony cures to ailments. Gypsy's in on the act would pose as a townsman in the crowd complaining of pains, drink the potion in front of everybody and claim to be healed. The potions were nothing more than sugar water or alcohol. They would also perform dog tricks, acrobats, fortune telling (remember the Gypsy with a crystal ball?) and palm reading. This setup is similar to today's modern traveling carnivals--except the trickery. (?) Hmm, come to think of it, the last carnival I went to took my money in a bottle knock down game that I would swear was rigged. (And I'm still waiting for my lucky talisman to win me the lottery). Randall please don't yell at me. I'm more sensitive than Bruce.

: Historically speaking, the gypsy people originated in India. Their customary occupations included dealing in horses and telling fortunes. It's easy to see how they became stereotyped as dishonest. (I leave aside the question whether gypsies were less honest than the average in those lines of work.) Imagine how your résumé would be judged if it showed a work history of selling used cars and acting as a telephone counselor for a psychic hotline.

: (I mean no disparagement of used-car salesmen. We're talking about stereotypes here, not reality.)

The Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997) has a second theory in addition to the "gypsy" one. "GYP - According to the popular etymology, to 'gyp,' 'to cheat,' derives from the name of the much maligned gypsies, who got their name because 16th-century Englishmen erroneously assumed they hailed from Egypt. The O.E.D. (Oxford English Dictionary), however, doesn't dishonor the Romany people, driving gyp from 'gee-up,' which meant 'to treat roughly' in some localities of England. The 'gippo' theory also saves face for the gypsies. A 'gippo,' later shortened to 'gyp,' was a short jacket worn by the valets of Oxford undergraduates in the 17th century. The word 'gyp' this theory holds, was eventually applied to the servants themselves, who were often cheats and thieves."

Then there's the Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang, Volume 1, A-G by J.E. Lighter, Random House, New York, 1994: GYP or GIP v. 1.a. to cheat; defraud; charge exorbitantly - sometimes considered offensive to the Roma (Gypsies). Now colloq. b. to disappoint. 2. to steal, filch.

There are several other "gyp" entries in Mr. Lighter's book including Gyppo for "an Egyptian"; logging terms -- gyppo (Gypsy + o) for "a small logging or freighting contractor" and gyppo for "to exploit for one's labor, cheat; and gyppo for "on contract."