or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Monday, July 07, 2008

Fall Where They May

Here on The Consumerist is a piece about Pringles potato crisps and how the company that makes them is arguing that they're not really chips, so they shouldn't be subject to a rather large potato-chip tax in the UK. And it's true enough; they're not chips. They're made from a paste of potato starch and other ingredients, extruded into a saddle shape and baked. According to the company and to the product's Wikipedia page, this makes them cakes. Seriously. Like rice cakes, or potato cakes. I think they'd be more like biscuits, actually, what with the dough and the rolling and all.

So Jim and I were having a laugh about this, and then he described Pringles as "not chips, but chippy", and then of course we began wondering where the derogatory word "chippy" might have come from.

A chippy, or chippie, is a woman of loose morals, possibly a prostitute (or, as Twisty would say, a prostituted woman, and I trust you can see the difference). Slang and cant being what they are, there's no good reason that "chippy" should have any reason for being, but it's always worth a lookup, right?

Not really, in this case. "Chippy", if you believe Dictionary.com, is a shortened form of "chipping-bird", which is another name for a sparrow, from the noise it makes. And sparrows and other birds do make that noise; we have a clutch of chippers around here, and instead of or in addition to singing, they produce randomly spaced little "chip-chip-chip" sounds. In this context, "chip" in turn is derived from "cheep", which, alongside "tweet", is the sound we most associate with birds in North America, I think.

As for why a friendly and familiar sort of woman would get herself an insulting name based on a sparrow, well, your guess is as good as mine. That's cant for you.


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