• whippersnapper •
hwi-pêr-snæ-pêr • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A feisty, snippy, combative upstart.
Notes: This word offers little for us to explore. It is a lexical orphan and an oddity that does not lend itself to further derivation. If I were to derive a noun from it, I would choose whippersnappery. Nor would I be the first to do so: it currently occurs 101 times on the Web. This word is usually refers to youths, and it most frequently occurs in the phrase 'young whippersnapper'. Age apparently mellows whippersnappers, which might be a good thing.
In Play: As mentioned above, whippersnappery seems to be the domain of the young: "That young whippersnapper over there just called me an old fogy!" Some of you might take umbrage at the suggestion that we lose our whippersnappery as we age: "Hey guys, some old whippersnapper just broke my middle finger!" It works for me.
Word History: This word is a jingle variation of whip-snapper "a cracker of whips", influenced by dialectal snippersnapper "a conceited, insignificant fellow". You might have noticed that I love rhyming compounds like namby-pamby, fuddy-duddy, slang-whanger, wishy-washy, willy-nilly, and the like. Whippersnapper is another member of this playful group. Whip comes from Middle English wippen, which also ended up as wipe. The ultimate source was PIE weip- "vacillate, tremble", a word seemingly preserved only in the Germanic languages. (This is yet another word included in The 100 Funniest Words in English, but was neglected in the Good Word series.)