Sunday, May 16, 2010

Hard to skip from Anon

Dear Word Spy,

Do you know why a big heavy metal rubbish bin is called a 'skip'? It seems pretty far away from the idea of skipping to me...


Dear Friend-in-Words,

What a great question - I have never thought about it before, but as soon as I read your message I thought, like you, what a strange word it is.

My spying has uncovered a few things. You know those lovely old-fashioned pictures of beehives that you see in books- the ones that look like upside-down baskets? Well, the name for that is a "skep". It came to English from Old Norse (the language the Vikings spoke)- "skeppa". Skep was used not just for bee baskets but lots of different sorts of baskets, including containers in coal mines. And after a while, a skep wasn't so much a basket as a big metal container, like the sort of thing we find on our streets. Then, in one of those mysterious changes of sounds that happen over time, in the 20th century "skep" became the modern "skip".

So it's got nothing to do with the lovely act of skipping after all! (Or Skippy the Bush Kangaroo...)

from the friendly Word Spy

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