Antedating "the yips" OED 1963-->1943 :: Fwd: "yips" - Word of the Day from the OED

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Fri Oct 1 08:56:02 UTC 2010

Thanks for posting about this interesting word-of-the-day, Victor.
Based on the great cites that you found I formulated a query and was
able to push the date back a bit further. In the 1938 newspaper
article below the professional golfer Tommy Armour is interviewed and
talks about "the yips":

Cite: 1938 July 15, The Hartford Courant, "The Sportlight" by
Grantland Rice, Page 16, Column 5, Hartford, Connecticut. (ProQuest)

"But, in this tournament, playing my finest golf up to the green, I
blew twenty-one putts under three feet. My nerves were in a snarl and
a tangle. They were blood-raw. I suffered agony all day long. But I
had the yips and I couldn't cure them. The yips start with an
explosion from the brain and then pour their cobra poison into the
nerves. I knew that every short putt I missed was costing me at least
$100, but I couldn't do anything about it."


On Fri, Oct 1, 2010 at 4:02 AM, Victor Steinbok <aardvark66 at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Victor Steinbok <aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Antedating "the yips" OED 1963-->1943 :: Fwd: "yips" - Word of
>              the Day from the OED
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>  OED WOTD had "the yips" last night. The text is the same on-line, of
> course. (See below.)
> I can't verify the GB hit for 1953--nor do I know anything about golf
> beyond the basics (so, not much about history). If anyone can confirm
> the accuracy of the publication /and/ follow that up with checking the
> text, someone is going to appreciate it. (I'm just reporting what I found.)
> Sam Snead. Natural Golf. 1953
> p. 103 [quoted from preview--snippet does not show the text.]
>> Bobby Jones once asked Tommy Armour, the former US Open Champion, what
>> "the yips" were and Tommy replied, "Never mind, ... I had "the yips."
>> Up until that time I had been a wrist putter, and I had putted with my
>> weight evenly balanced ...
> Sneed also had 1962 The Education of a Golfer and "the yips" made an
> appearance there as well.
> Another 1953 hit:
> Tommy Armour. How to play your best golf all the time. 1953
> p. 138
>> The terrifying thought of playing with consummate skill to within a
>> few feet of the hole, then having all previous achievement nullified
>> by what happens within a few inches is enough to give the best golfers
>> the yips.
>   Tommy Armour makes an earlier appearance as a possible progenitor of
> the expression. Again, the volume information has not been fully
> verified, and certainly not on paper.
> The Nation's Business. Vol. 35. 1947
> [p. 52 in GB--actual location unknown]
>> He had assured himself that this was all he wanted to do, that all he
>> desired was a comfortable game. Then he set out to break 90. If he
>> accomplished that, he moved on relentlessly to break 80. It is at this
>> stage that something is likely to go whoosh and his score jump back up
>> to 110. It is a personal catastrophe. As Tommy Armour used to express
>> it: "The 'yips' have got him."
> Note, in particular, that, in this context, there is no explicit
> connection to the putting game as it appears in the OED.
> Also note that the OED gives "unknown" as the etymology. I suppose, one
> would have to ask Armour for clarity. But, given that in other contexts
> "the yips" represent not only sounds of dogs, but also provide
> counterbalance to yells, yelps, yaws, yaps, and yahoos, might not the
> origin lie with the corresponding sound represented by the same word?
> Admittedly, the usage is a bit different--it's not just "hearing the
> yips", but "getting the yips".
> Then, there is the following--and it's not even from any golf context!
> Timothy Fuller. This is Murder, Mr. Jones. 1943 [WorldCat gives a
> somewhat ambiguous pub. date of 1945 with copyright of 1943, but both
> Harvard and BPL have copies (offsite) and both catalogues list it as 1943.]
> p. 82
>> The party was beginning to develop a fair case of the yips.
> I have little doubt that the meaning is related to that in golf. But
> this citation predates all available golf-related citations. So it's
> interesting.
> GB also identifies "Newsweek, Volume 31" from "1948" as another related
> cite, but it seems to be even more difficult to confirm--no page number,
> no issue, no certainty of even the year or the volume being correct. But
> the text is right on:
>> Dick and Barbara George Button plainly had the yips: in the space of
>> three minutes he dropped his cigar five times. Mrs. Button wasn't much
>> better off: she repeatedly fumbled her scoring pencil.
> So the golf expression appears to have been adopted from an entirely
> different context, unless golfers had been using it long before its
> formal appearance in print.
> GB has several other interdating hits which I omitted. They may,
> however, be useful in ascertaining the precise meaning of the expression
> and whether it continued to be used in contexts other than golf. But
> narrowing down the appropriate quotes is quite difficult, as they are
> interspersed among the references to dog yips and other verbal
> expressions that resemble the dog sounds. For the moment, this is the
> best I could do.
>     VS-)
> PS: I would verify the BPL-owned volume had I still been in Boston. But,
> I'm now in Colorado, completely without resources, other than my laptop
> and the BPL/Minuteman account.
> -------- Original Message --------
> Subject: "yips" - Word of the Day from the OED
> Date: Fri, 01 Oct 2010 01:30:00 +0100
> yips, n. pl. colloq. (j{shti}ps)  [Origin obscure.]
>     In Golf, a state of nervousness which causes a player to miss an
> easy putt in a competition. Usu. with the def. article.
> 1963 Times 10 June 4/2 His left-below-right putting stroke designed to
> prevent the 'yips', is most effective once it begins to flow. 1972 Tel.
> (Brisbane) 1 Jan. 5/7 Nevertheless, Jones got a dose of what golfers
> call 'the yips'. 1984 Times 21 Sept. 9/4 Golfers suffer from the 'yips',
> which means that their muscles seize up and freeze when they are faced
> with a short putt and they cannot play the stroke.
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list