The slang meaning of the verb "rip off"

Wilson Gray hwgray at EARTHLINK.NET
Thu Jun 3 22:28:57 UTC 2004

I first heard "rip off" used as slang in 1966 in Los Angeles. Three
(black) women were downing [= putting down] a fourth woman who,
obviously, was not present. One of the women, in the course of her
critique, said, "[Whatever her name was] is a stone loser. Why, she
even lets guys rip her off in the backseats of cars!"
 From the context, it was clear that "rip off" meant "have sexual
intercourse with."
And, in my mind, the term's history was totally obvious. When I was
living in Saint Louis in 1950, the phrase, "tear off a piece [of ass],"
came into use among black males. (Interestingly enough, the phrase
"knock off a piece [of ass]" simultaneously came into use among white
males. (Though I lived black, I was educated white. My all-male prep
school had 800 white students and seven black ones.)) Sixteen years
later, ay walah, *rip off.
What bugs me is this. _This is the *one and only time* that I've *ever*
heard "rip off" used with a sexual connotation. As we all know, "rip
off" now universally has the meaning, "steal, rob," etc. In view of my
assertion that women don't originate
slang, how did it happen that I first heard this term used by a woman
and not by a man? On the other hand, if my assertion is wrong and this
phrase did originate among women, there remains the problem of why and
how did it, almost immediately, so completely lose its sexual meaning?
As far as I can tell, I may be the only native speaker of English on
the face of the earth who uses "rip off" with the meaning, "have sex."

-Wilson Gray

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