Monday, January 16, 2012


I was watching some show or other the other night and someone on it used the word 'dupe'. In context, it somehow seemed to have an added meaning of duplicate or double, and since I'm quite interested in the idea of double lives and doubles in general right now, I found myself wondering where the word 'dupe' came from. Of course we all know that it means cheat or trick or swindle, but I was wondering how it got its start and whether it did in fact have a double sort of nature.


Well, a dupe is, not so surprisingly, just a shortened form of "duplicate". So much for my fascinating connecting theories. But dupe as in "to dupe" or "to be a dupe" has an interesting, separate source. It comes from the Middle French duppe, which was thieves' jargon, and one thought is that it goes back to de huppe, or, in  our language, "of the hoopoe", which was thought to be an incredibly stupid bird. I guess in English a gull, or even a dodo might stand in for this. I don't think I've ever heard a dim bulb described as a hoopoe here, at any rate.

This isn't the first time thieve's jargon has come up around these parts. It surfaced in the word posh, a post which also led to the discovery of another secret language--polari. I mention this mainly because I came across an article in this month's issue of The Believer, which talks about why the polari language is dying and what that means. Here's the link, but it will only give you the beginning of the thing. I leave you to your own devices to read the rest.

Is the hoopoe really all that stupid?

Maybe, maybe not. But they certainly don't lack an inquisitive streak.


  1. "Duped" is one of those words I have always liked. In the IT world I have been hearing "de-dupe" a lot, which means removing all copies to make space. Not sure how intelligent that bird is, but it is cool looking and that beak looks like it could do some damage

  2. Sean, de-dupe is a nice expansion of the word.

    There was actually a better video of the hoopoe 'hooping' that I was tempted to use, but it didn't really fit with my theme.

  3. Also, Sean, I just read your terrific review of The Cold, Cold Ground, but I couldn't get into the comment field to say it there. I've been having that trouble with certain blogger formats lately.

    The best I can do is send people to the Mindjacker blog,where people can at least read it and maybe some will be able to comment.

  4. Seana-Thanks. I also have been having issues with blogger comments on other blogs, as well as the comments page taking forever to load. it's annoying, but blogger is free, so...The setup I have is about as basic as it gets. Hopefully, it is just a google quick that gets resloved.

  5. Yeah, I don't really get into the whole hating blogger thing for the very reason you say, and I haven't found the Wordpress interface quite as satisfying. I always just wonder if they know there's a problem, but I'm sure there is some board or other that is talking all about it.

    More worrying was when I checked out Paul D. Brazill's blog and reading some strange words about the whole blog being gone. I hope that was a temporary situation too...

  6. Loved learning about "dupe," "de huppe," etc. I also like the word "drupe."

    Yes, some people have been having trouble commenting on my blog, which recently added a "Reply" function on the comments page. So I wonder if these troubles are connected.... Usually they sort themselves out.

  7. Kathleen, I thought of drupe but decided I was already going a bit far afield.

    Next time I try to comment and the screen goes blank, I'll just leave it on and go on to something else, and see if it ever comes back.