A Reuters article, datelined San Francisco and posted yesterday, says Microsoft “managed to pip Facebook Inc in the survey – only 42 percent of young adults thought the world’s largest social network is cooler now than in the past. Twitter scored 47 percent, below Microsoft’s 50 percent.”

I heard about this on Twitter, where Kenneth Li provided the link and tweeted: “In which an american writer uses the word ‘pip.'”

What means this pip? I did a search on GoogleNews and this emerged:

Screen Shot 2013-02-22 at 9.18.15 AM

That was not helpful, so I turned to the OED, which I should have done in the first place. The relevant definition is “To defeat or beat narrowly,” and the first citation is from 1838, in the journal “Hood’s Own, or Laughter from Year to Year”: “With your face inconsistently playing at longs and your hand at shorts,—getting hypped as well as pipped,—‘talking of Hoyle..but looking like winegar.’”

That settles the meaning. As for NOOB-itude, Kenneth Li was right to single this pip out. It’s an outlier for sure.

17 thoughts on ““Pip”

  1. You might get better search results if you search for “pipped to the post”, which is the most common usage in my experience

  2. Definitely a NOOBism, derived from horse racing, presumably, because “pipped at the post” is the overwhelmingly most common usage. The word “pipped,” however, slithers away disconcertingly with both OED and Partridge offering a wide range of meanings from military slang for “annoyed” to an adjective describing poultry after the tongue scale has been removed. Your citation also entertainingly riffs on the phrase “according to Hoyle” derived from the great codifier of card playing rules Edmund Hoyle, hence “according to the highest authority.” Good one!

  3. A good summation. Also of note here is “Pip, pip!” which is an admonition to hurry up, and ‘Pip’ as the diminutive form of ‘Phillip’.

      1. I think “pip-pip” was a formulaic response to “toodle-oo”.

        And it certainly wasn’t coined by Wodehouse, but certainly used by him in the speech of those of his characters that he wished to characterize as young and silly.

    1. At the Athens Olympics the British equestrian competitor Pippa Funnel had to use her full name, Philippa, as Pippa is apparently very rude in Greek.

  4. And, “someone/something gives me the pip.” was in relatively common use to indicate that someone/sometihing was extremely irritating/annoying when I was a kid *mumble* decades ago, but it seems to have fallen by the wayside.

  5. There’s also the time-signal pips, where each pip denotes a short period of time, ie a second. As “pipped at the post” means (a horse) being overtaken and beaten at the very last moment, perhaps they’re related.

  6. British Army officer rank insignia also include four-sided stars, more commonly called “pips”. For example, a second lieutenant has one “pip” and a brigadier (general) a crown and three “pips”.

  7. Adding to Phoebus’s remark – at Sandhurst Miltary college there were ‘Wonder Pips whom I believe were university undergrads who got a Pip on admission to the college

  8. I recall seeing a 1920s- or 1930s-set mystery from the 1980s-early ’90s, where either a character was startled and said the person who surprised her gave her the pip, or a character was unsettled by the behavior of another and said that the person gave her the pip where today’s Americans would say “He gave me the creeps.” Of course, a modern screenwriter could get all sorts of anachronistic expressions wrong, and based on the preceding comments I guess did.

    I’ve also heard the word “pip” used for the short electronic tones counting down the seconds before an hour was struck or a time clock countdown started. For example, “There were three pips before the starting gun,” or “Listen for the pips and insert your coins.”

    All the preceding examples were from British contexts. In America, I’ve only heard or read “pips” to mean the seeds in oranges, lemons, and grapefruits, and Gladys Knight’s backup singers. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s