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HD: 1977 Words
Posted: 01 June 2012 07:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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Thank you, aldi.

I have no idea what the OED means by the following:

Etymology:  Origin uncertain; perhaps < nip n.3 + and conj.1 + tuck n.1
(nip, n.3 a sharp remark or comment, a slight rebuke, reproof or sarcasm obs.) (tuck, n.1 a fold or pleat in drapery)

which, apart from the phrase “Etymology: origin uncertain”, seems to me to have nothing whatever to do with the price of cheese.

I suppose the inquest on “nip and tuck” must return an open verdict for the present. Let’s hop over to another thread, and see whether the ley lines lay or lie to the lee of the lea, or maybe of the loo......

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Posted: 01 June 2012 07:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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Don’t post often, but sure enjoy the discussions, found this one enjoyable, keep it up.

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Posted: 01 June 2012 12:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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I took a look at google books about the turn of the century Americanism, nick and tuck.  I didn’t find anything dispositive regarding the origin of the phrase, but found something that is at least good fodder for speculation.

From “the English dialect dictionary, volume 15 and 16, (published in 1903) there is a definition of “nip” of “to move quickly”.  The author then says “hence the phrase, nip and tuck, meaning, at full speed.  It then says “amer. they had it, nip and tuck, for five mile or more, the old man a-gaining all the time” (cent. Mag. 1888) xix.”

Just a WAG, but my guess would be that nip and tuck was adopted from “nip”, and originally meant to go as fast as possible.  Later, it shifted in meaning to mean two people (or horses, or ships, or whatever) each going as fast as possible, and, thus, competing with each other.  It then took on a meaning of a close contest of any kind. 

(Just a wag, but more plausible, I think, than the idea that it somehow refers to a juxtaposition of a small bite and a drapery fold.)

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Posted: 01 June 2012 12:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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Another theory is offered in “a dictionary of slang, jargon and cant (1897): it defines the phrase as “a close contest” (which we already knew) and says it relates to Cornwall (not sure what that is based on) and says that it is based on an old wrestling phrase, combining “nip” (to seize) and “tuck” (to chuck, or throw).  Seems plausible enough, but no evidence or citation is offered to support that this is a wrestling term (nor is support offered for either of the individual definitions).

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Posted: 01 June 2012 12:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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And, finally, I found a somewhat speculative explanation in the Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins (1988) that notes that nip and tuck are old fencing terms. Tuck is an old word for a fencing rapier, and “nip” could refer to a cut with such a blade.  So people at “nip and tuck” are like two equally-matched opponents.  (apparently other explanations for the term are included in that page, but they are not included in the preview snippet, which is annoying, but c’est le googlebook).

So there seem to lots of theories, but not a lot of conclusive evidence, about where this phrase came from (a not uncommon state of affairs, it seems).

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Posted: 02 June 2012 09:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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I regret that my phrasing of the question led to a misunderstanding, and sorry if my subsequent comment offended you.

No offense taken. I was just surprised (or dismayed) by my own forgetfulness, that I hadn’t been mindful of the older expression, or connected the two.

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