nip and tuck

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nip and tuck

Post by Ken Greenwald » Tue Jun 07, 2011 5:53 pm

While in Boston last week for my son’s graduation (master’s degree), I was reading a booklet published for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s 150th anniversary, in which I came across the following:
<2011 “The race was nip and tuck from start to finish.”—MIT 150, 5 May, page 41, published by the Boston Globe>
Nip and tuck is a common expression that I’ve used and heard many, many times, but never gave at thought as to its origin.

Back in 1998 Ask the Wordwizard provided the following when asked for the origin of NIP AND TUCK:
Nip and tuck, meaning neck and neck, comes from nip, a light touch and Ital. tocco, a blow, thus a heavier contact.

I wouldn’t regard this as one of Johnathon Green’s more stellar responses. I was also surprised that it was not listed in his Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang.

Today, all sources I checked had a bit more to say on the definition and all gave the origin as ‘unknown.’

PICURESQUE EXPRESSIONS by L. Urdang

NIP AND TUCK: So close as to be of uncertain outcome [[a very close contest]]; neck and neck, on a par, even; up in the air, questionable. This chiefly U.S. term is of puzzling origin and inconsistent form, appearing in print in the 1800s as rip and tuck, nip and tack, and nip and chuck, before assuming its present nip and tuck. Its original restriction to contexts describing close contests, usually athletic, lends credence to the claim that it originated as a wrestling term (Barrére and Leland, Dictionary of Slang,1890). The expression is now employed in much broader contexts, indicative of any kind of uncertainty.
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FACTS ON FILE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF WORD AND PHRASE ORIGINS

NIP AND TUCK: Nip and tuck pretty much means ‘neck and neck,’ but the latter suggests, say, two runners racing at the same speed with neither one ahead of the other, while nip and tuck describes a close race where the lead alternates. The earliest recorded form of the expression is found in James K. Paulding’s Westward Ho! (1832). “There we were at rip and tuck, up one tree and down another.” Maybe the rip originally came from “let ‘er rip” and later became nip because of the expression “to nip someone out,” to barely beat him, while the tuck was simply an old slang word for “vim and vigor.” Other guesses at the phrase’s origin are even wilder.
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OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY

NIP AND TUCK adjective and adverb, originally U.S.: Chiefly in predicative use. So closely contested as to make it hard to predict a winner; neck and neck. Sometimes used specifically in relation to a contest during which each of two competitors continually regains the lead. Also as adverb. [Origin uncertain]
<1832 “There we were at rip and tuck, up one tree and down another.”—Westward Ho! by J. K. Paulding, I. page 172>

<1836 “Thar we had it; up and down; nip and tuck; who should and who shouldn’t, ‘til you’d er thought the very yerth a comin to an eende.”—Humor of the Old Deep South by A. P. Hudson, page 17>

<1845 “The boys used to say, it was nip and tuck between Jack . . . and Castro, who would do the most foolhardy things.”—American Whig Review, November, page 514>

<1857 “ by the head, and the dog got him by the tail, and it was nip and tuck, pull Dick, pull devil.”—Knickerbocker, Vol. 50, page 498>

<1892 “It was a nip-and-tuck race.”—in Big Game North America, page 92>

<1937 “On the current lists of non-fiction best-sellers ‘Live Alone and Like It’ has been running nip and tuck with ‘How to Make Friends and Influence People.’”—The Nation (New York), 27 February, page 227/1>

<1948 “It is nip and tuck whether such a last great achievement of the bipartisan foreign policy can be ratified before . . . the Presidential race.”—The Economist, 8 May, page764/2>

<1988 “10–1 chance Dominator . . . overcame Foretop in a nip and tuck struggle to the line.”—Greyhound Star, June, page 34/5>

<2001 “In a game that would decide the group winners it was nip and tuck up to 10–10.”—Weston & Worle News (Electronic Edition), 19 July>

<2005 “From then on, it was nip and tuck with the lead constantly changing, and with seventeen seconds left, Nuneaton were still in arrears.”—Coventry Evening Telegraph (England), 13 January>

<2008 “It will be nip and tuck but I'm very pleased with our position.”—Daily Mail (London), 2 January>

<2011 “However, Erdogan's brickbats come amid a nip and tuck electoral race between him and Turkey's opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu . .. “—Kuwait News Agency (KUNA), 12 May>

(quotes from the Oxford English Dictionary and archived sources)
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Ken G – June 7, 2011
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Re: nip and tuck

Post by trolley » Tue Jun 07, 2011 7:30 pm

The "rip and tuck" version seems to have a different smell than neck and neck...more like hither and thither, pillar and post, here and there.
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Re: nip and tuck

Post by Wizard of Oz » Wed Jun 08, 2011 4:38 am

.. I have never heard this meaning for this expression in Aus .. Downunder it generally is gay slang referring to the removal of the penis >> nip .. and the making of a vaginal entry >> tuck .. I suppose that could be like a wrestling match ..

WoZ on the ropes
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Re: nip and tuck

Post by trolley » Wed Jun 08, 2011 6:26 am

I can see that...although I'd rather not.
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Re: nip and tuck

Post by Edwin F Ashworth » Thu Jun 09, 2011 5:31 pm

I trust Ken bought his son a well-deserved memento - like a graduated flask.
Of good wine or Bourbon.
Not to be confused with a Master's cylinder.
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Re: nip and tuck

Post by Ken Greenwald » Thu Jun 09, 2011 11:13 pm

Edwin, My son's girlfriend says that he's been a Master-at-Arms (and more) all along.
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Ken – June 9, 2011
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Re: nip and tuck

Post by Edwin F Ashworth » Fri Jun 10, 2011 2:32 am

I expect he found a bargain mortar-board in the classified section of Concrete Mixer's Digest.
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Re: nip and tuck

Post by Ken Greenwald » Fri Jun 10, 2011 5:31 am

Edwin, Motor-boats aren't cheap in Boston, no matter where you look.
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Ken – June 9, 2011
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Re: nip and tuck

Post by Ken Greenwald » Fri Jun 10, 2011 6:11 am

Wiz, I think I’ll take a pass on your nip and tuck procedure. But in the spirit of your posting, except not quite as drastic, here is one more meaning of nip and tuck brought to you by the OED:

NIP AND TUCK noun, euphemism: Minor cosmetic surgery, especially for the tightening of loose skin; an instance or the result of this. Also in extended use.
<1977 “Nip and Tuck: I was glad to see that James Kelly . . . included warnings about possible complications and the fact that a properly qualified practitioner of plastic surgery should be sought in order to be assure the best result to avoid potential risks involving this surgery.”—New York Times, 13 November, page 144> [[This is especially true for the Australian nip and tuck!]]

<1980 “Still, there was obviously a feeling that it was time for plastic surgery, and the nips and tucks were unveiled Friday night in the ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.”—New York Times (Nexis), 27 October, page B5/4>

<1983 “Albert Finney is a plastic surgeon who brings beautiful women a nip and tuck closer to perfection.”—Time Magazine (Nexis), 5 December, page 11>

<1989 “A minor nip and tuck gives the Festiva a new grille, taillamps, badging and side molding.”—Motor Trend Magazine, October, page 54/1>

<2001 “He allowed unlicensed employees . . . to perform nose jobs and nip-and-tucks at his now-defunct plastic surgery clinics.”—Daily News (New York, New York) (Nexis), 7 March, page 7>

<2007 “Belly button surgery is the innie thing: It’s the latest in cosmetic surgery a belly button ‘nip and tuck.’ The private London Clinic in Harley Street is offering navel sculpting to British patients for the first time. It claims ‘navel engineering’ can transform protruding or ‘outie’ belly buttons.”—The Evening Standard (London), 31 December> [[Warning: Watch out that you are not operated on by a Rear-Admiral.]]

<2011 “Over three months, documentary makers were granted access to every trim, tighten, nip and tuck carried out across the network of Transform hospitals and clinics.”—The Sentinel (Stoke-on-Trent, U.K.), 2 June>
(quotes from the Oxford English Dictionary and archived sources)
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Ken – June 9, 2011
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Re: nip and tuck

Post by Erik_Kowal » Fri Jun 10, 2011 7:17 am

The surgical meaning is embodied in the title of the TV show Nip/Tuck, which the relevant Wikipedia article introduces as follows:

"Nip/Tuck is an American drama series created by Ryan Murphy, which aired on FX in the United States. The series focuses on McNamara/Troy, a plastic surgery practice, and follows its founders, Sean McNamara and Christian Troy. Each episode typically involves the cosmetic procedures of one or more patients, and also features the personal and professional lives of its main cast."
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Re: nip and tuck

Post by Edwin F Ashworth » Sat Jun 11, 2011 11:19 am

Main casts, ie concrete motor boats, were covered in an early issue of the CMD.
Nip and tuck procedures are distinctly unpopular in Boston - they've always had this thing against clippers.
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Re: nip and tuck

Post by hsargent » Tue Jun 14, 2011 2:00 pm

I had never thought of the two uses of Nip and Tuck..... minor surgery and a close race.


Both refer to "very close or minor". That is the only connection I see.
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Re: nip and tuck

Post by Gtrimprov » Sun Dec 22, 2013 7:17 pm

Here is another idea, purely speculative.
Tuck (as in dressmaking) and nip (as when one's skin is nipped) are near-synonyms.
So perhaps nip and tuck is just a way of describing near equality, much as in "It was six of one and half a dozen of the other" to imply that two people were equally to blame, or "It is six of one and half a dozen of the other" to imply that two possible courses of action have equal merit.
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