Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Pip-Pip Hooray!


Mike from Cadillac asked about the origin of pipsqueak, something that he calls his young dog. It is usually applied to youngsters, especially human children. There are two elements. Pip-pip is an imitation of a repeated, short, high-pitched sound, especially one made by a car or bicycle horn. A squeak is a sound of a thin, high-pitched character made by animals or persons. Both would be characteristic of a childish voice.


Later callers spoke of the many meanings applied to the word pip. There are five noun forms and five verb forms with that spelling.

  • A respiratory disease of birds. v. To remove the scale from the tongue of a fowl affected with the pip.
  • Any of various varieties of apples, or any of the seeds of various fleshy fruits.
  • Each of the dots or symbols on a playing card, die, or domino; a small spot or speck; a small flower; the stars worn on the shoulders of an officer’s uniform to denote rank; a small spike or deflection on a radar screen; a voltage pulse.
  • An arbitrary syllable used for the letter p in telephone communications and in the oral transliteration of code messages.
  • A short, high-pitched electronic tone used as a signal; especially (a) one of a sequence of such tones broadcast over the radio as a time signal or (b) one of a sequence of such tones transmitted over a public telephone line as a signal to the caller to insert more money. v. To sound a horn or to emit a pip as a radio or telephone signal.
  • To chirp.
  • To defeat or to beat narrowly; to hit or wound with a gun; to fail an examination; to die.
  • Of a chick, to crack the shell of an egg when hatching; to give birth.


Available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition


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