— Nippertipping & Bumsicle —
Nippertipping is a recent Canadian coinage, a racist term that describes pushing an Asian fisherman off an Ontario dock or bridge or riverbank into the water, chiefly because he or she is Chinese, Japanese or Vietnamese. A spate of such welcomes occurred in Ontario recently. In 2007, police hate-crime units investigated incidents near Lake Simcoe and near Kingston, Ontario. A small Asian boy was tossed into a lake. Under cover of night, a car chased four Asian fishermen and a white companion who was tossed out of his car and hospitalized in a coma.
Charming little anecdote! It will encourage no end of tourism to the friendly lakes of central Ontario.
Local fishermen, it appears, resent “strangers” fishing “their” waters for what may be a pollution-depleted fish stock.
But who is the cause of most local fishery declines? Would it be strangers who have never lived in the area? Or is it local industry or local white-trash slob Canadians merrily tossing leaky drums of crankcase oil into formerly pristine waters? Or bozo white fishermen crapping over the gunnels of their boat whenever nature calls, voiding ill-chewed Quadruple Burgers into some protected, no-fishing area? I am reminded of an old Homer & Jethro parody whose lyric contained the line “We sailed with Captain Tuna, the chicken of the sea.”
Nippertipping as a word is based on a racial slur against Japanese people that became prominent during the Second World War. A ‘nip’ was a Japanese citizen or soldier. It was a shortened form of Nippon, one of the Japanese words for Japan.
Nip or nipper may also have been influenced by the earlier British slang nipper meaning a boy assistant who helped a carter or a drayman. That nipper was of mid-Victorian origin, first appearing in print in 1851. The secondary influence of the British word nipper may be a reflection of a common, World-War-Two belief that Japanese men were of smaller stature than European men."Little Nipper" was the famous white dog listening to a Victrola and His Master's Voice, a logo of complex use and a still-jealously-owned trademark. Little Nipper has been on a phonographic device of some sort continuously from 1884.
Nip now appears to refer to any person of Asian extraction. One of the first racist jokes I recall hearing as a small child in postwar Ontario, circa 1949, is this one:
Q: How could you tell they had hanged the Japanese spy?
A: There was a little nip in the air this morning.
Etymology of Nip
Nippon is actually the origin of our word Japan.
Nippon can also be written using Chinese characers:
As The Oxford English Dictionary points out in a draft revision note from December, 2003, Nippon is short for the early Japanese name Nippon-koku ‘land of sun origin.’ Nippon consists of nip (a combining form of Japanese nichi ‘sun’ + pon (combining form of hon ‘beginning’ + koku ‘country.’ All these particular Japanese wordroots stem from Middle Chinese.
How Did Nippon Become Japan?
Portuguese and Dutch merchants trading at Malacca heard the Malay versions of the name Nippon. In the Malay language, Japan is Japung or Japang, possibly filtered through a Chinese form Jih-pun ‘sun rise.’ Adventurer and trader Marco Polo first brought back to Europe the earliest version of Japan’s name and he called it Chipangu.
Interestingly, oriental, our Latinate noun and adjective in English, also refers to the lands of the rising sun. The classical Latin adjective orientalis ‘eastern’ has its root in an earlier adjectival form oriens, orientis ‘rising,’ the present participle of the Latin verb oriri ‘to come out, to rise.’ Oriri has cognates throughout the Indo-European language family including Old English risan ‘to rise,’ Latin rivus ‘brook,’ ‘stream,’ Attic Greek ornynai ‘to urge on,’ ‘to cause to rise,’ Attic Greek oros ‘mountain,’ and Sanskrit words like arna ‘ wave’ and raya ‘stream.’
Orientalis bore a semantic hue of easterliness because, of course, the sun rises in the East and sets in the West or Occident. The Occident as a synonym for the West is an adjective and noun ultimately from another Latin verb, occidere ‘to fall down,’ ‘to go down,’ ‘(of the sun) to set.’
Here is another tidbit of brutal jargon from the taser-wielding classes of Canadian society. Bumsicle is Canadian police slang for an old alcoholic frozen to death on a winter night. This dismissive and hate-filled insult describes a rubbie whose stiff corpse has been found by night patrol on a city park bench. The word appears to have been formed on the analogy of Popsicle.
By the way, the word rubbie is a Canadian coinage too, to label alcoholics who consume rubbing alcohol, an even more potent poison than ordinary booze and one that transforms your liver into old-shoe leather reasonably quickly.
© 2012 copyright William Gordon Casselman
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Reviews of my Book
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A Great New Review of My Latest Book!
October 26, 2011
Welcome to the Enchanted Forest
By WB Johnston
This review is about Bill Casselman’s latest e-book about words: Where a Dobdob Meets a Dikdik: A Word Lover’s Guide to the Weirdest, Wackiest, and Wonkiest Lexical Gems (Kindle Edition)
“Wade Davis, lately of National Geographic, once described each living language as “an old-growth forest of the human spirit.” Once you decide to enter the kleptomaniacal woods of our mother tongue, what you need is more than a tour guide. This is no Disney-fied ‘keep-your-hands-inside-the-car-at all-times’, point A to point B, clear-cutting mining of language. You, here, are in the hands of Sir William of Cassel, a genuine shaman modestly posing as a simple lover of words.
Leave it on your desk at work and trust that someone will riffle through it when you are out at lunch. Shamans are magicians of the highest order. The work of their hands and hearts is game-changing. Or, hey, put it on your Kindle and just feel comforted that you can wander back out into the forest with Bill even in the middle of a boring lecture.
(Casselman replies: Thank you so much, Dr. J., for the kudos.)
Jenni French of San Fancisco, California writes on her blog “My Corner of the Universe” for March 19, 2011:
Casselman, Bill. Where a Dobdob Meets a Dikdik: A World Lover’s Guide to the Weirdest, Wackiest, and Wonkiest Lexical Gems. Avon, MA: Adams Media, 2010.
And the author has quite a way with words, so I have found myself rereading many sentences in this book and slowing my progress through it.
My current favorite sentence is found in a discussion of dog hybrid breed names: “What a revolting concatenation of cutesiness and smarmy nomenclatorial treacle parading under the name of canine hybrid breed names” (19).
I’m sure I’ll have another favorite sentence in a day or two.
This book is just that good and just that entertaining.”
(Author Bill Casselman replies: “Thanks, Jenni!” )
Just a reminder that this book contains my ALL-NEW word esssays, none of which are available anywhere else in print or online.
Cindy Lapeña on her blog “Creativity Unlimited” of July 19 ,2011, writes:
Posted by mimrlith in 365 Things to Look Forward to.
19. Starting a book
To a certified bibliophile like me, a.k.a. bookworm, one of the most exciting things to look forward to is to start reading a new book. In fact, sometimes the prospect of starting to read a new book is so exciting that I have to hurry to finish the book I am currently reading, just so I can start a new one.
If there’s one thing I can’t resist, it’s a book, especially if it promises to be a good one. Of course there are certain books I just won’t touch or be seen with, but at the risk of being hung by my thumbs by fans of such literature, I will not mention any genres in particular. . .
Seeing a book with a title that totally captivates me, like Where a Dobdob meets a Dikdik (yes, that is a book title!) has me so worked up, I just can’t wait to dive in. I imagine all sorts of deliciously fancifully outrageous words with a title like that. Is it obvious? I just love books on words. You won’t believe how many dictionaries I own. Or books on lexical oddities and other lexical explorations. Yes, I am a logophile of sorts. I love the new words I pick up from new books. I relish finding out the meanings of all manner of words and phrases and expressions. What could be more fun?”
(Replies author Bill Casselman: Please scroll to bottom of page or click here to link to a free seven-page preview of my new book, Where a Dobdob Meets a Dikdik.
Thursday, February 3, 2011
Dear Mr. Casselman,
. . . I revisited the paraprosdokian page, and have finally quit laughing again at “Casselman’s Conclusion.” You were not unkind to the “profligate prof-lets.” During my years as an acquisitions editor, in rejection letters I often quoted Prof. Moses Hadas, classicist at Columbia University, who wrote a young scholar in response to having been sent the prof-let’s first book, “Thank you for sending me your book. I will waste no time reading it.”
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