The slang meaning of the verb "rip off"

Jesse Sheidlower jester at PANIX.COM
Fri Jun 4 00:09:12 UTC 2004

On Thu, Jun 03, 2004 at 06:28:57PM -0400, Wilson Gray wrote:
> 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.

Though as a white man I am no doubt unfamiliar with most
aspects of black culture, I can tell you that _rip off_ 'to
have sexual intercourse with' or 'to rape' is reasonably well
attested in the 1960s, esp. in AAVE. We have examples from one
or two prison memoirs, from a Hell's Angel memoir, and from
several of the Iceberg Slim books.

The longer phrase _rip off a piece/hunk/etc._ does indeed
exist, and is attested at least as far back as the 1930s; I
assume it is the origin.

Jesse Sheidlower

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