[Ads-l] "snupper" - derivation and definition?

James Eric Lawson jel at NVENTURE.COM
Mon Jan 10 23:25:36 EST 2022

I probably bit this off too short, not to mention typing "Dutch" when
the translation (to English 'grab') is of the Danish word 'snup'. To
expand on the shortness of my first post on this topic: in 1898
(antedating the 1924 citations in OED) a use in The Saint Paul Globe of
17 May, p 7, already suggests the "misappropriation" sense:

"The Twelfth boys had a heap of fun with a Hebrew junk man who was
'snooping' around the camp during the morning."


On March 30, 1926, an article titled "The Junk Snupper" by C.R. Clifford
appears on p 62 in The Saturday Evening Post. Among other uses of the
phrase (see link), the article includes this:

"...my friend, Bill Lovell, the inveterate junk snupper."


The November 1926 issue of House Beautiful, in an article titled "Chats
About Antiques", p 545, refers, I suppose, to the Clifford article
(among others?), and glosses 'junk snupper' thus:

"A 'junk snupper', it seems, is a person who pokes in all the
out-of-the-way corners and unexpected places where rubbish and junk
accumulate, and picks up wonderful finds that other people have overlooked."


An article titled "Rare Old Book Displays Silhouette of Harrison" in the
April 16, 1934 home edition of The Indianapolis Times, p 6, foregoes the
cutsy spelling and echoes Clifford, perhaps coincidentally, while adding
to the characterization of the snupper:

"An inveterate 'junk snooper,' however, can rise to heights of
enthusiasm over a rare antique even though there is no hope of owning it."


On 1/9/22 12:47 PM, James Eric Lawson wrote:
> OED and Bartlett (_Dictionary of Americanisms_, 1848, 1859) derive this
> sense of 'snoop' from Dutch (and Low German). Modern Dutch 'snup' (long
> u) translates as 'grab'. Bartlett in 1859 (and possibly 1848) describes
> the use as "peculiar to New York".
> https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015005262970&view=1up&seq=465&q1=snoop
> See OED 'snoop', intransitive sense 1, "To appropriate and consume
> dainties in a clandestine manner. U.S." and the later development,
> transitive sense 3, "To steal, to misappropriate."
> On 1/9/22 12:36 PM, Nancy Friedman wrote:
>> The author of the New Yorker article is a self-described Millennial. The
>> author of the 1927 book is, of course, long dead.
>> On Sun, Jan 9, 2022, 12:25 PM Charles C Rice <charles.rice at louisiana.edu>
>> wrote:
>>> I like the idea that someone who published a book in 1927 might be on
>>> Twitter. FWIW, I've been to quite a few estate sales in the New Orleans
>>> area and never seen or heard of a "snupper."
>>> -----Original Message-----
>>> From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> On Behalf Of
>>> Nancy Friedman
>>> Sent: Sunday, January 9, 2022 1:12 PM
>>> Subject: "snupper" - derivation and definition?
>>> CAUTION: This email originated from outside of UL Lafayette. Do not click
>>> links or open attachments unless you recognize the sender and know the
>>> content is safe.
>>> I came across "junk snupper" in Lizzie Feidelson's New Yorker article
>>> about estate sales, published online January 7, 2022:
>>> https://www.newyorker.com/culture/on-and-off-the-avenue/the-wild-wonderful-world-of-estate-sales
>>> I haven't been able to find a relevant definition or derivation for
>>> "snupper" in any of the dictionaries at my disposal. (Urban Dictionary has
>>> a fanciful entry for snupper = "snack" + "supper.") I did find a 1927 book,
>>> "The Junk Snupper: The Adventures of an Antique Collector," but the online
>>> excerpt wasn't very helpful. I've queried the author via tweet but haven't
>>> had a response.
>>> "Snatcher-upper," maybe?
>>> From the New Yorker article:
>>> In her book “Out of the Attic: Inventing Antiques in Twentieth-Century New
>>>> England
>>>> <
>>> https://www.amazon.com/Out-Attic-Twentieth-Century-Historical-Perspective/dp/1558497102?ots=1&slotNum=0&imprToken=f6bf2005-8525-1d6a-bf2&tag=thneyo0f-20&linkCode=w50
>>>> ,”
>>>> the social historian Briann Greenfield describes how, at the beginning
>>>> of the twentieth century, when the value of antiques began to rise, a
>>>> middle-class cadre of enterprising “junk snuppers” began departing in
>>>> cars from urban centers to the countryside, where they knocked on
>>>> farmhouse doors and kindly offered to relieve inhabitants of any
>>>> mint-condition Americana. She cites a 1907 antiquing guide called “The
>>>> Quest of the Colonial,” which advises junk snuppers to identify
>>>> possible marks by looking for “the sight of chairs on a porch.”
>>> Nancy Friedman
>>> Chief Wordworker
>>> www.wordworking.com
>>> http://nancyfriedman.typepad.com
>>> Medium <https://medium.com/@wordworking>
>>> tel 510 652-4159
>>> cel 510 304-3953
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>> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

James Eric Lawson

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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