TIP: TO INSURE PROMPTNESS?
Mr Pink in Reservoir Dogs helped us to introduce a really important topic. We are talking about tipping, but what's the origin of this word? In some languages (Italian, French) it has quite of a story to tell, what about the English language?
There are different stories about this term, and some of them bring to the wording: To Insure Promptness / To Insure Prompt Service.
So apparently the word tip(s), meaning gratuity, is nothing but an acronym. It comes from the beginning of the 17th century, and it means to give, to pass. It appeared for the first time in a coffee house in London on a box and was used by customers when they arrived at the bar to put money inside for waiters to ensure a rapid service.
Well, the only real thing in this short story is the meaning, the rest as stated in the Oxford Dictionary is pure invention, and it seems to be one of the most famous false etymology.
First of all the use of insure is not appropriate, ensure would have been the correct word in this case.
The 17th century is a little bit early for acronyms in the English language as they were really rare before World War II.
The word that seems to be closer is the German verb “tippen,” which means “to poke, to tap” to communicate with another person surreptitiously, but this etymology is not confirmed. For sure the first time the word “tip” was mentioned (with the meaning we all know) is in 1706 by George Farquhar in his playThe Beaux Stratagem: “Then I, Sir, tips me the Verger with half a Crown.”
Our journey across the tipping world isn’t over. In the next article, we will see who’s gonna keep the tip…
Here you can find the first part of the article