Tyke is a happy word in our family: the dependent clause “when you were a tyke” has prefaced various recollections of our children’s early years. Just this morning, I said in an e-mail to my daughter Rachel and son Ben that I wished Chicago’s Puppet Bike had been around when they were tykes. The corporate respelling of tyke has an honored place in our family lore: a piece of videotape from 1988 has Rachel, then all of two and a half, speaking of her dream third-birthday present, a Little Tikes Kitchen:
What’s so special about a Little Tikes Kitchen?I wondered this morning: where does tyke come from? I’m sort of sorry to have found out. The Oxford English Dictionary gives this etymology:
Because I like it.
What do you like about it?
Because it has a telephone.
It has a telephone. What else does it have?
It has a lot of cooking.
ON. tík female dog, bitch (Norw. tik, also she-fox, vixen, Sw. dial. tik, older Da. tig); also MLG. tike bitch.And the word’s oldest meaning (dating to 1400):
A dog; usually in depreciation or contempt, a low-bred or coarse dog, a cur, a mongrel.But as early as 1400, tyke applied to men and women:
Applied opprobriously to a man (rarely with similar force to a woman): A low-bred, lazy, mean, surly, or ill-mannered fellow; a boor.And it later applied to children:
Also said in playful reproof to a child; hence (unreprovingly), a child, esp. a small boy; occas., a young animal (U.S.).I’m reminded now that kid too applied first to an animal, “the young of a goat,” as the OED creepily puts it.
If you’re wondering, Rachel got her Kitchen.