Tuesday, March 17, 2015

2424 Guttersnipe Races

Recently I heard an angry pundit call someone by a cool old insult name.  Guttersnipe.  Doesn't that just reek of the 17th century?  Gadzooks Old Bean, that young rapscallion is a guttersnipe.

It got me thinking.  If there's a gutter version of a snipe, what exactly is a snipe?  Does the word refer to sniping, the practice of verbally nipping at an opponent?  Or nagging, like the proverbial fishwife?  Equal time here, fish-husbands were often nag worthy.

I'd guess referring to anyone as a gutter anything is not good.  Except perhaps a "gutter and downspout cleaning specialist."

So what is a snipe?  My first thought was that snipe was one of those imaginary things concocted by young fellows to get their young women alone in a remote place.  "Let's go on a snipe hunt."  Then they would go down to the shore and neck.

Also in that category were grunions.  Grunions, despite their name, were not snackfood favored by tokers in need of a savory munchie.  They were also semi-imaginary creatures one would use as a date destination.  "Let's go watch the grunion run, hon." 

A little research surprised me.  Both snipe and grunion are real entities.  Though their viewing was certainly employed by aforesaid seaside suitors, they do exist.  Grunion are small fish that come ashore in droves to mate.  Snipe are small shorebirds that are indeed notoriously hard to catch.  In fact, that's where we get the word sniper.

Guttersnipe, it turns out, had nothing to do with either of those.  It was originally a Wall Street word for a streetcorner broker.  You know, an unscrupulous, virtually non-regulated, evil entity that takes advantage of the unwary.  Also spelled AIG.

They once sold me some loan guarantee derivatives, in a company that puts on submarine races.

America, ya gotta love it. 

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