from THE DICTIONARY OF PHRASE AND FABLE BY E. COBHAM BREWER 1894 ed.:

    Gyp: A college servant, whose office is that of a gentleman's valet, waiting on two or more collegians in the University of Cambridge. He differs from a bed-maker, inasmuch as he does not make beds; but he runs on errands, waits at table, wakes men for morning chapel, brushes their clothes, and so on. His perquisites are innumerable, and he is called a gyp (vulture, Greek) because he preys upon his employer like a vulture. At Oxford they are called scouts.




I get in huge fights with people about gyp being a racial slur against gypsies. For one, I go to the source: the dictionary, but most modern dictionaries say the etymology is 'probably from gypsy.' it's not.

gyp is not from gypsy, but has only become associated recently with gypsy because of the similarity of the words. By believing it is a racial slur, it becomes one.

When I grew up in North Toronto, the word "gyp" was used to mean cheat, and swindle. I myself used it as children do, without thought.

That is, until the day I heard the word "jewed" used. And then it came to me--the meaning that people put to the word "gyp", and "gyped" was the same as they put to "jewed".

Then I knew I would never use that word again. I never have, except in this, rather academic context.

A dictionary is rarely the best source for the living language, thought it can help.

Words and sensibilites do change over time. When younger, I was taught that "person of color" was a term of insult. Today it seems to be taken as a description of honor. Nevertheless, I have difficulty in using it.

Gyp (?), n. [Said to be a sportive application of Gr. a vulture.]

A college servant; -- so called in Cambridge, England; at Oxford called a scout.

[Cant]

 

© Webster 1913.

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