Friday, June 12, 2015

Word of the day: gazype

[Speaking with Larry Williams (Robert Armstrong), Dan Healy (James Gleason) expresses skepticism in a colloquial manner.]

Elaine and I just went on a pre-Code tear, watching six films in Universal’s Pre-Code Hollywood Collection. The word gazype makes an appearance in the last film of the set, Search for Beauty (dir. Erle C. Kenton, 1934). Dan Healy is doubtful about Larry Williams’s scheme for a health-and-beauty magazine:

“Hey, look, you say this is on the up-and-up? Well, I don’t want to spit in no cop’s eye. If you’re hooked up with this, there's some kind of a gazype in it.”
Gazype appears to fly under all radar. But the Oxford English Dictionary has a word that could be its inspiration: the slang gazump, also spelled gasumph, gazoomph, gazumph, gezumph. As a transitive verb: “To swindle; spec. to act improperly in the sale of houses, etc.” And as a noun: “a swindle.” One citation suggests that it’s a Yiddish word, but “origin uncertain,” says the Dictionary.

The first citation for the verb is from 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.
The first citation for the noun is from 1932:
Ere ’e is . . . parasitin’ on people all day  . . .  and then ’e objects to a little gasumph!
As Dan Healy uses the word, it seems to mean crookedness, fishiness. Was gazump well enough known that gazype would get a laugh, with Healy out of his depth in an attempt to use the lastest slang? Was gazype a fleeting variation on gazump? Or an Americanized version of British slang? Did a writer or actor pick up the word in England and misremember it? And is there no end to unanswerable questions?

Other pre-Code posts
Baby Face : Lady Killer : The Little Giant : The Mystery of the Wax Museum : Other Men’s Women : Red-Headed Woman

comments: 3

Chris said...

It sounds Romany-ish to me.

Unknown said...

Used twice in "Search for Beauty" (1934). "Hype" is to swindle since 1926 in Hist. Dict. Amer. Slang.

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks for the possible hype connection, Anon. And Chris, for your suggestion.