A few tips about tips

TIPS box - not genuine

I heard some discussion on Radio Cymru this about the origin of the word tip(s). They said that in 18th century England there were boxes in pubs with the letters T.I.P.S. on them, which stood for “To Insure Prompt Service”. Gratuities were put into the boxes and became known as tips.

According the Snopes.com, a fact checking website, this is folk etymology, i.e. wrong. No such boxes existed, and the first appearance in writing of the word tip, meaning gratuity, dates back to the early 18th century, and the word tip, meaning to give a small sum of money intelligence on horse races or the latest silly joke dates back to 1610, and was used in thieves cant (slang).

The Online Etymology Dictionary suggests that the word tip, meaning to knock down or overturn, is of uncertain origin, and possibly comes from Scandinavian languages – in Swedish tippa means to tip or dump.

The word tip, as in the end or point of something, comes from Middle Low German or Middle Dutch tip (utmost point, extremity, tip).

The story about tip being an acronym for “To Insure Prompt Service”, “To Insure Promptitude” or “To Insure Promptness” comes from Inns, Ales and Drinking Customs of Old England by Frederick W. Hackwood, which was published in 1909.

There is more fact checking of popular sayings on Snopes.com.

2 thoughts on “A few tips about tips

  1. As far as I’m concerned, ALL word origins supposedly based on acronyms are folk etymologies except for a small number of modern, technical terms (e.g. scuba, radar).

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