Monday, January 25, 2016

Gazip, Gazipe, Gazump - Variants of Gazabo?

A History and Etymology of Gazump



“A gazump . . . is a thing that used to be an automobile, but now it is going to be a motorboat.”

The Citizen (Berea, Kentucky), October 23, 1913, page 2; The Tensas Gazette (St. Joseph, Louisiana), October 31, 1913, page 10.

Might this questionable definition of an American slang term of the 1910s hint at the origin of the British slang term, “to gazump,” that dates to the 1920s?


A Tale of Two Gazumps

In the 1910s, the word “gazump” was American slang, generally referring to an old car.

Since the late 1920s, the word “to gazoomph” (now generally spelled, gazump) has been British slang for a method of swindling or cheating.[i]

The British term has long been said to be derived from a Yiddish word, meaning “cheat,” although there is some dispute as to whether there was such a word in Yiddish.

Might there be a relationship between the earlier, American noun “gazump” and the later British slang verb, “to gazoomph” or “gazump”.

To Gazump (British)

To “gazump” is British slang meaning:

1. (of a seller) raise the contracted price of a property after having informally accepted a lower offer (from an intending buyer);

2. archaic Swindle (someone).[ii] 

The word was recently explained in the New York Times, in an article about how a Qatari prince was “gazumped” out of his apparent purchase of a Picasso sculpture:

In Britain, for instance, sellers can agree to part with a house for a certain price, but then change their mind and accept a higher offer at the last minute – a phenomenon known as “gazumping.”


The Prince “purchased” a Picasso sculpture and made two payments – only to have the sale cancelled, his money returned, and the sculpture sold out from under him to a higher, but later, bidder.  The sculpture, “Bust of a Woman (Marie-Thérèse),” is currently (as of January 2016) on view at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

“Gazump,” or “gazoomph” (alternately gasumph or gezumph), is attested in British sources as early as 1928:

‘Gazoomphing the sarker’ is a method of parting a rich man from his money. An article is auctioned over and over again, and the money bid each time is added to it.

Oxford English Dictionary, 2d Edition (citing Daily Express, December 19, 1928).

“Gazump” is generally presumed to be of Yiddish origin.[iii] As early as 1934, one writer explained:

Grafters speak a language comprised of every possible type of slang . . . Quite a number of words are Yiddish.  These include ‘gezumph’, which means to cheat or to overcharge.

Oxford English Dictionary, 2d Edition (citing P. Allingham, Cheapjack XV, 189.

In the 1970s, when the practice of “gazumping” took off in the British real-estate market, it was said to be borrowed from “car trade slang.”[iv]

Professor of Judaic and Slavic Studies at MIT, Dr. Robert A. Rothstein, however, doubts “that there is any such word in Yiddish.”[v]

So where did it come from?

          Gazump (American)

Although I cannot point to any specific connection between the two, it is possible that the British slang, “gazump,” may reflect a new meaning assigned to the archaic, American slang word, “gazump.”  The timeline of the introduction of the two words is consistent with a possible borrowing. 

British “gazump” is said to have originated in the late 1920s; American “gazump” in the 1910s. The fact that all five of the early examples listed in the Oxford English Dictionary are spelled with a –ph (suggesting the eff-sound, as opposed to a p-sound), however, may caution against finding a direct connection.

The Brits did, however, have the opportunity to borrow the American word.  The American word “gazump” appeared in the English magazine, The Nation and Athenaeum, in 1922; but was apparently incomprehensible to most Englishmen:

It is regrettable that no glossary is attached to the English edition, for there are few untraveled Englishmen who will understand words like those which are peppered liberally through the book: harr, flivvers, galoots, sleazy, floozies, cahoots, gazump . . . .

The Nation and Athenaeum, April 29, 1922, page 158.

Those comments were made in a review of Carl Sandburg’s collection of poetry, Smoke and Steel, in which used the word “gazump” in the poem, “Cahoots”:
. . .
Harness bulls, dicks, front office men,
And the high goats up on the bench,
Ain’t they all in cahoots?
Ain’t it fifty-fifty all down the line,
Petemen, dips, boosters, stick-ups and guns
– what’s to hinder?

Go fifty-fifty.
If they nail you call in a mouthpiece.
Fix it, you gazump, you slant-head, fix it.
Feed ‘em. . . .

Carl Sandburg, Smoke and Steel, New York, Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1921, page 45.

Despite Sandburg using “gazump” to refer to a person, the word was generally (but not exclusively) used as a noun, to refer to a beat-up old car.  The single American example I found of “gazump,” as a verb, relates to hiding under a woman’s bed and stealing her underwear (more on that later) – not really the same as selling out from under a presumptive purchaser, it may be considered a type of swindle(?).  Or is there a connection between the 1970s “car dealer slang” in Britain and the earlier, automotive sense of “gazump” in the US?

How and why “gazump” came to mean under-bidding late, or swindle, in British slang is anyone’s guess; Yiddish may be at the top of the list, but the word could have come from the States.
The American Gazump, on the other hand, may be a variant of a more common American slang term of the early 1900s, Gazabo.


Gazabo

“Gazabo,” is believed to be derived from the Spanish word, “gazapo sly customer, sharpie, literally, bunny, young rabbit, akin to Portuguese caçapo; Iberian Rom word of obscure origin.” See Dictionary.com.   Gazabo was used in American-English as early as 1893, and seems to have been fairly common from the late-1890s into the 1920s.  The word was generally used to refer to a person, like the word, “guy,” but generally with a negative connotation – like the word, “bozo.”  The expression, “wise gazabo” was frequently used in place of “wise guy.” At times, “Great Gazabo” or “High Gazabo” was used humorously as a placeholder title for some muckety-muck – what we might now refer to as a “Grand Poobah.”  You can read more about “gazabo” in my post, Hobos, Gazabos, Tramps and “The Great Bozo!”

Gazump

The earliest example I could find of “gazump” appeared in George Ade’s book, The Slim Princess, in 1911:

I was gussied up in the real Tuxede with the satin blazizums all over the front and the gazump and the little concertina hat. 

George Ade, The Slim Princess, New York, A. L. Burt Co., 1911, page 234.

George Ade had been famous for using current American slang in his writing since publishing his popular 1896 book, Artie, a Story of the Streets, one of the earliest popular works of literature to use the word, “gazabo.”  Here, the word, “gazump,” could be a fanciful mispronunciation of “cummerbund,” or perhaps just nonsense for any doohickey that might accompany a tuxedo.

The automotive sense of “gazump” appeared as early as 1912, and frequently after early 1913.  The earliest reference I found is from an advertisement for a Pullman automobile (as opposed to a Pullman rail car) published in January 1912:

You are doubtless getting some mighty attractive offer to sell the “Scootmobile,” the “Puzuzza,” the “Gazump” and others.  Easy terms, big profits are the inducements offered, but, Mr. Dealer - . . . .


The Automobile Trade Directory, Volume 10, Number 1, January 1912, page 38.

In early 1913, a comic strip, entitled, “A Joy Gazump,” played off the phrase, “joy ride” (read more about joy-riding in my post, Jaywalkers and Jayhawkers):



The Times Dispatch (Richmond, Virginia), March 15, 1913, page 4. The International News Service, filed for copyright protection of the cartoon, suggesting that it may have been syndicated nationally and been seen by many readers. United Stated Copyright Office, Catalogue of Copyright Entries, Part IV, n.s., v. 8, no. 1, 1913, page 3394.

In May, an article about the proper term to use when a non-sail-powered ship goes to sea extended the word “Gazump” to another type of motorized vessel:

Why ‘steamed’? What’s the matter with the good old fashioned word, ‘sailed’? Every one knows what is meant by ‘sailed’ and no one supposes that in the case of the modern steamer it has anything to do with the spreading of canvas.  If carried to its logical conclusion we shall open our papers some morning and be greeted by something like this: “The Diesel motor vessel Gazump internally combusted for Antwerp at 5 p.m. yesterday.’

She didn’t ‘sail’ in its literal sense; she certainly didn’t ‘steam,’ so I suppose she must have done as above stated.

The San Francisco Call, May 27, 1913, page 23.

Later in 1913, the word “Gazump” appeared in numerous, widespread headlines and story about the arrest of an unlicensed driver in Chicago:


“Cruelty to Auto” Charged Against Owner of “Gazump,” The San Francisco Call, September 5, 1913, page 16.



The Gazump. The Daily Gate City (Keokuk, Iowa) September 5, 1913, page 1.



Auto or Gazump? It Spat Out Fire, The Citizen (Berea, Kentucky), October 23, 1913, page 2;  



TheTensas Gazette (St. Joseph, Louisiana), October 31, 1913, page 10.

The onomatopoeia in the first line may hint at the association between “gazump” and an automobile:

Chicago. – “Chug-chug; ungth; grrr; zunk!”

The trained ear of Patrolman James Shea caught these sounds the other day as he stood at Fifty-fifth street and Lake Park avenue.  They were not especially hard to catch as they came in a flock. They arose from a mysterious appearing object that approached from the south. . . . It looked like a barrel attached to a dry goods box and mounted on wheels.  It spat fire from two sides of the barrel. It groaned like a creature tortured beyond its strength.  In a hole in the top of the dry goods box sat a man. . . . 



“What’s that thing you’re driving?”

“Where’s your eyes, officer?” inquired the man in the machine with some indignation. “Can’t you see it’s an automobile? . . . . I bought it from a fellow for $30. It’s a bargain.”

“Where’s your license?”

“I haven’t got any. . . . .”

[At the station, the Sergeant wanted to fine him ten dollars and force him to purchase a city license for six dollars. The driver protested]
“This officer here,” he said, indicating Patrolman Shea, “is mistaken. 

That ain’t no automobile. It’s a gazump.”

“What’s a gazump? Demanded the sergeant skeptically.

“A gazump –” replied [the driver]. “Wait, I’ll show you.”

He rushed out of the station, kicked the barrel off the machine, picked up the engine, put it on his shoulder, and walked off.

“A gazump,” he said, “is a thing that used to be an automobile, but now it is going to be a motorboat.”

The Citizen (Berea, Kentucky), October 23, 1913, page 2; TheTensas Gazette (St. Joseph, Louisiana), October 31, 1913, page 10.

The word “gazump” was regularly, if not frequently, applied to various vehicles throughout the rest of the decaded, and into the 1920s:

Go out and hire the finest gazump that ever burned benzene.

Master Tales of Mystery, New York, P. F. Collier & Son, [c. 1915], page 373.

A twenty-cylinder Gazump lay in wait for him and caught him in midair.



Cartoons Magazine, Volume 14, Part 2, October 1918, page page 532. Pic.

“We’ve been over to the Gazump service station getting a part for our automobile which – Ah!



The Daily Ardmoreite, August 19, 1919, page 7. PIC.

And the Sheriff; Next! 

Nogales – Not satisfied with having filched the spare tire from the automobile of Chief of Police Jay Lowe, tire thieves last night uncorked the extra tire from the rear of the official “gazump” driven by Sheriff White of Santa Cruz county.

Arizona Republican, Phoenix, April 2, 1921, page 4. PIC.

Gazump was also used, on occasion, in a manner similar to “Gazabo;” suggesting, perhaps, that it may have been derived as (or at least was understood to have been) a variant of Gazabo.

In February 1912, when the automotive sense was still relatively new, a “gazump” could be a person:


Once a pale-gilled Gazump, whose sole amusement in life consisted of winding the five o’clock alarm for his daily morning dash in the pancake handicap, felt his wheels slipping and found no sand in the box . . .

The Postal Record, Volume 25, Number 2, February 1912, page 36.

In 1915, Willard Connely referred to a character in one of his stories as, the “Lord High Gazump of the Snowell Crowd,” similar to several instances in which “Great Gazabo” or “High Gazabo” was used to mean, “Grand Poobah,” or the like.[vi]



McClure’s Magazine, Volume 45, page 130, 1915.



In 1917, a fictional Professor Gazump “invented” a sort of Rube Goldberg self-emptying ice-box pan: 



The Tacoma Times (Washington), August 20, 1917, page 3.

In 1922, a humor piece speculated about how David Harum, a fictional character of books, stage and screen, might fare among the even more unscrupulous used-car dealers of modern times.  David Harum was a shrewd horse dealer, whose loose, yet practical, business sense likely made many a business man feel better about themselves.  Interestingly, the piece uses “wise gazump” in reference to Dave Harum, rather than a reference to the questionable cars sold by the dealers:

As hoss trader, David Harum was the bonbons. Dave could swap junk pedler’s nag for Morvich and get double trading stamps besides.  Slicker than hair oil; smarter than floorwalker – that was Dave all over. Could tell horse’s birthday by looking at teeth. Could tell mileage by simply inspecting hoofs. A wise gazump. . . .  Then our hero started trading automobiles. That was Dave’s first wholesale mistake. . . . .

We do not wish to dilate on David’s bargain, but it was a car that only a junk man could love.  The hood was guaranteed to jingle for the first 5,000 miles.  The steering wheel was hand-carved mahogany and the windshield was genuine stained glass of the mid-Methusela period.  The upholstering was leather and very smooth riding, if only studded with rubber heels.  And the engine worked like a dream. A dream where you come to with a jolt and find you’re where you were in the first place.

Don’t think we’re knocking that engine. It could knock for itself. . . .

So he went back to hoss-trading in one leap and swapped a flat-footed nag for a draft horse that very afternoon.  Proving that horses are a safe bet compared with second-hand cars.

“David Harum Comes Back; One Day in Used-Car Trading Was Enough for Dave,” Neal R. O’Hara, The Evening World, May 25, 1922, Wall Street Final Edition, page 29.

In 1927, “Gazump” was the placeholder name of a company in a business school-type hypothetical:

If Bill Jones has a hundred dollars and he owes us a hundred dollars and also owes the Gazump Co. a hundred dollars, he can pay one of us only.

Harold Whitehead, Problems of the Executive, New York, Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1927, page 188. 

In 1916, a movie star discovered a new bird – she called it a “Gazump”:

[Silent film star] Bessie Barriscale . . . has captured a unique bird, the like of which local ornithologists have never seen before.  The odd member of the feathered tribe has been named “a nut eating Gazump.”

Rock Island Argus (Illinois), August 12, 1916, page 7.


To Gazump

In every case, except one, when I ran across the word, “gazump,” it was used as a noun, referring to a car, boat, person or bird.  The single instance of “gazump,” as a verb, that I found was a reference to hiding under a woman’s bed to steal her underwear (chemise), or, as the British censors insisted – her under-“whereabouts”:

Surely Mabel is Paris, her bed La Belle France, and the actor who crawls into it and ruthlessly attempts to gazump her, our old friend, the Hun.

The Smart Set, volume 64, number 1, January 1921, page 135.

The New York Sun, March 9, 1919, magazine section page 8.


Despite the apparently overt sexual reference here, “Up in Mabel’s Room” was generally considered good clean fun – and an opportunity for audiences to watch several actresses undress – and even bathe – on stage.  The play follows the exploits of three young couples sharing a country house over a weekend.  One couple is newly married, and the groom wants to retrieve a monogrammed chemise he had once given to another woman – who is now engaged to another man, and who is in the house for the weekend.  His ex-girlfriend wants to keep the chemise, and flaunt it in front of his new wife, because she finds her to be an unbearable prig.  Hilarity ensues. Eventually, in the comedic highlight of the play, he resorts to walking in on his ex in the bath – and boldly retrieving the evidence of his earlier relationship.

New York Tribune, February 23, 1919, page 12.


The play made a long-lasting impression on pop-culture; it was made into a silent film in 1926, a talkie in 1944, a Screen Guild Players’ radio production in 1944, and Phil Everly sang a song by the same title in 1971.  The title of Elmore Leonard's 2007 book, Up in Honey's Room, may have been influenced by the earlier title.


Gazip

“Gazip” popped up in several places, with several different meanings.

In some cases, it was used similar to “gazabo,” as a mock title, “the Really and Truly Gazip,”[vii]  or a “wise gazip.”[viii]  In some cases, it was just nonsense, as in a class cheer for the Northwestern University school of pharmacy in 1904, “Gazip, Gazip, Gazolee, Gazee!, or a cheer purportedly changed by a visiting Japanese collegieate baseball team in 1905, or at least how it sounded to an American sportswriter’s ear; “Hullie gazoo, gazip, gazam; Rice, jiu jitsu and a Cosack man; Banzai, Waseda! We’ll kick ‘em in theslat; We’ll beat Kuropatkin with a baseball bat.”  The seemingly random Russian references were a result of Japan’s being embroiled in a war with Russia at the time.   The team, from Waseda University in Japan, “scalped” the Riverside, California Braves by a score of 12 to 0.[ix]  In one case, “Gazip,” was the name of a mythical island “in th’ Gulf iv Baf.”

Gazipe

I found the term, “Gazipe,” in only a couple references.   

It first appears in a widely reported, syndicated column, “Stories from the Big Cities,” in which it was said to mean, essentially, the same as, “N[-word] in the wood pile;” a now obsolete expression meaning once used to refer to an unexpected, or  unseen problem or danger, lurking nearby.  The word was used in a city council meeting by a local theatrical manager:



“Gazipe,” Latest Term for a Wood Pile Denizen.
St. Louis, Mo. – Gazipe! There it is! Look out for it! It will ge t you if you don’t. Let no guilty gazipe escape. 

The gazipe made its debut at a special performance with the legislative committee of the city council for an audience.  It was presented by the theatrical manager, Frank R. Tate.  The appearance of the gazipe was unannounced and it created a sensation.

Discussing the pending bill which would require all St. Louis theaters to comply with the building and fire protection laws as amended in 1907, Manger Tate said:
“I can point out the gazipe in that bill.”

The committeemen were astounded. The Gazipe came like a bolt out of a clear sky.

With difficulty restraining his emotion, Councilman Leahy asked:  “What is – what is this – ah – hum – this, ah - ?”

“Gazipe?” snapped Tate.

“Yes. What is a gazipe?”

Well, I don’t know that I can explain it to you clearly.”

“How do you spell it?”

“You don’t spell it. You look for it.  I don’t know that it has ever been spelled, but it has been prounounced a million times,” said Tate.

“Well,” said Leahy. “In order that it may be placed in the official records and in the files of the municipal library we will spell it g-a-z-i-p-e. Now what is it?”

“Well,” said Tate. “I have heard theatrical people use it very often, but I don’t think it is known outside of the profession.  When an actor signs a contract with a manager he always reads it over several times to look for the gazipe, the little thing which, if left in there, will cause the actor to get the worst of it.”

One of the committeemen suggested that gazipe was something like “a n[-word] in a woodpile.”

“Very much like it,” said Tate.

“Oh, I see,” said Leahy. “It’s a ‘joker’ a ‘stinger.’”

So there you are.  If the grocer adds a little 10-cent item to your bill – something that you didn’t get – that’s a gazipe.

The Madison Journal (Tallulah, Louisiana), March 22, 1913, page 8.

I could only fine one other use of the word “gazipe;” not specifically in show-business, but also in the midwest:

Well, WELL, now that IS something to talk about. I knew all along there was a gazipe to all this chance-taking business.

The Chicago Packer, June 11, 1927.

A problem that might cause someone to get the short end of the stick? – that sounds more like a British gazump.


Gazip?

All of which brings us to the one, possibly pre-gazabo use of “gazip,” in a sense apparently meaning energy or pep.  I found only two instances of this usage; one from 1883, and one from 1915.

In 1883, a critic appraising Oscar Wilde’s lack of acting talent, worried that he did not have enough “gazip;” a Western term, apparently meaning what we might now call, “zip”:

The Aesthetic Romeo.

Oscar Wilde is really coming back here.  Marie Prescott the actress, is to produce her play next season, and Oscar must come over to rehears it.  . . .  As a playwright Mr. Wilde may be a great success, but as an actor he lacks the go that is necessary on the American stage. A Romeo who is not able to shin up Juliet’s balcony, take her under his arm and defy all the Capulets, will not meet with success west of New York.  Mr. Wilde has too much repose, and not enough of what the Denver people call stage gazip.

Bismarck Tribune, June 15, 1883.


Zip

The similarity between “gazip” and “zip” raises the question of whether “gazip” might be a direct predecessor of “zip,” in the sense of energy or pep?  “Zip,” in the sense of pep or energy, dates to at least 1895:

The members of the University club nine are gentlemen, who play the game solely and purely for the sport there is in it.  They put a “zip” into the game that is a delight to the spectator and is not often seen in professionals.

Omaha Daily Bee, May 19, 1895, page 19.[x]

This sense of “zip” appears to have been common by the mid 1910s:

Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia), August 15, 1916, page 5.
The Daily Gate City and Constitution Democrat (Keokuk, Iowa), August 27, 1917, page 6.



But, of course, “zip” could, perhaps, have come to mean energy without “gazip”; it is attested as early as the American Civil War, as onomatopoeia for the sound of bullets whizzing through the air.  Still, it is an interesting coincidence – or is it?

In 1915, one sportswriter used “gazip” – in the same sense that other writers were using “zip”:

These two well-muscled youths showed considerable knowledge of the boxing game but did not put much “gazip” in their punches.

Honolulu Star-Bulletin, December 10, 1915, page 12.

Does this reflect the survival of the 1883 term, “gazip,” or does it reflect the modified use of the more current term, “gazip” (“gazabo”), to play off the new meaning of “zip”?


Conclusion

An American “gazump” may or may not have had any influence on the British “gazumping” – but it could have.  The American slang terms gazip, gazipe and gazump may have been variants of the more common word, “gazabo.”  It at least seems likely that “gazabo” had some affect on how “gazip” and “gazump” were used on occasion; they were both frequently used in a manner very similar to “gazabo.”  But the existence of one, apparently pre-gazabo example of “gazip,” in the sense of pep or energy, raises the question of whether “gazabo” begat “gazip” or whether it was a happy accident.  The automotive sense of "gazump" might also have been influenced by the sound one imagines an old motor would make - ga-zump!, ga-zump!, ga-zump!

The British term, “to gazump,” may be derived from a Yiddish word that sounds like “gezoomph,” but no direct evidence has been found.  Based on the timeline of the British and American senses of “gazump,” it is at least possible that it could have some connection to American “gazump.”

“Zip,” in the sense of pep or energy, could come from “gazip” – but then again, it may not.
What do we really know? Apparently zip.

Los Angeles Herald, October 11, 1912, page 3.



[i] The word “gazump” was recently discussed in a post by Laurence Horn on the American Dialect Society’s ADS-Listserv message board.  The word had been addressed on the ADS-Listserv at least once before, in a 2004 post about the word, “gazipe.”
[iii] Michael Quinion, WorldWideWords.org Newsletter 755, September 24, 2011.
[iv] Oxford English Dictionary, 2d Edition (citing The Guardian, November 8, 1971; “Gazumping” – a system of profiteering by double selling and pushing prices up – is creeping into the property market. . . The word is car trade slang for selling to one buyer and then, as values rise, to a second buyer.).
[v]Michael Quinion,  WorldWideWords.org Newsletter 756, October 1, 2011.
[vi] The Labor Journal (Everett, Washington), January 5, 1912, page 3 (“Most High Gazabo of the society”); The Paducah Sun (Kentucky), August 21, 1905, page 2 ([referring to baseball executives] “the high gazabos of the National association”);  The News Scimitar (Memphis, Tennessee), Februery 27, 1920, page 12 ([referring to Shriners] “the sheiks, or whatever the high gazaboes of the Shrine are called”).
[vii] The Indianapolis Journal, March 3, 1901, page 12 (This is the Style of Vapor calculated to keep a Young Woman anchored right in the Turkish Corner and make her believe she has met the Really and Truly Gazip.).
[viii] “Mr. Aesop Up to Date: The Monkey and the Turtle,” The San Francisco Call, May 26, 1901, page 8 (Now the Monkey was a Wise Gazip who believed himself able to trump any Lead, from hanging all day by the Tail to blowing the Big Horn on the Day of Judgment.” “Boots and Boosts of the Dutch Uncle”, The Minneapolis Journal, December 10, 1905, part III (Sports), page 3 (It is usually the case when any of these wise gazips from Hoboken dip into western sport without occupying a sleeper west of Poughkeepsie.).
[ix] Los Angeles Herald, May 21, 1905, page 6.
[x] The Oxford English Dictionary, 2d Edition, dates this sense to 1900.

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