rip off

Wilson Gray hwgray at EARTHLINK.NET
Sat Jun 5 03:28:42 UTC 2004

On Jun 4, 2004, at 5:16 PM, Mark A. Mandel wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Mark A. Mandel" <mamandel at LDC.UPENN.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: rip off
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------
> --------
> Wilson Gray:
> I've already been taken to task wrt to my unfortunate habit of failing
> to express myself clearly. For that, I must again beg indulgence. I
> have no problem whatsoever wrt the sexual reference of "rip off." My
> question is, what could have motivated the total *loss* of the sexual
> reading and what could have brought it about so quickly, so that I've
> heard "rip off" with the sexual reading used in live speech only one
> time by one person, despite the ubiquity of the locution? The word
> "screw," for example, retains its sexual reading. Even "jazz" retains
> its sexual reading. Why not "rip off"? There's probably no answer to
> that question, but it never hurts to ask.
>         <<<
> what's the basis For assuming that it originally had a sexual reading
> and
> then lost it? isn't it equally likely that what you heard was a
> one-time
> usage or a usage derived from the meaning of 'steal; rob'?
> -- Mark Mandel
> [This text prepared with Dragon NaturallySpeaking.]
Yes, I agree, in general, though I doubt the possibility of a
connection of "steal" with "have sexual intercourse" in BE. There's no
glory in copping a taste of strange through the use of alcohol or some
other drug.
It could also have been an in-group usage among the women. They weren't
people with whom I ordinarily consorted, only friends of a friend. The
fact that I never heard the sexual usage again could very well stem
merely from the fact that I was never again in the presence of these
particular women.
Perhaps this just a case of not seeing the forest for the trees.

-Wilson Gray

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