Illegal tipping in Maine

From the NYT on the 24th: “Tree Tipping Generates Cash and Seasonal Woes in Maine” by Jess Bidgood. No, not tipping trees over (as in the rural prank called cow-tipping):

Deblois ME. — Forest rangers spend the last months of the year scanning the woods here for signs of a crime.

The telltale white tips of snapped off branches of balsam fir trees and vehicle tracks leading just off the road may be signs of illegal tipping, a form of seasonal larceny in which the branches are snatched without permission and sold to make Christmas wreaths.

So this is not the verb tip referring to a motion or to causing this motion (the candle tipped over, he tipped the candle over). Instead it’s a verbing of the noun tip (NOAD2: ‘the slender extremity or top of a thing’). More than that, the verbing is a verb of removal, like bone ‘remove the bones from’ and many others: so, ‘remove the tip(s) from’.

More from the NYT:

“It’s a big problem for us,” says Courtney Hammond, a district forest ranger who, in a pickup truck, keeps his eye on vast swaths of land here. He and his colleagues, he said, have caught about eight suspected tip rustlers this year. Last year rangers made a seizure of more than 1,400 pounds of illegally harvested tips.

“I’m sure that’s just scratching the surface of what goes on,” Mr. Hammond said, because there are only a handful of rangers to cover all of Washington County, where much of the tipping occurs.

In Maine, it is illegal both to cut and transport evergreen boughs without permission

… Starting in early November, workers head into the woods to snap off 12- to 18-inch balsam tree branches, stacking them high on poles, their hands sometimes sticky with pitch. There is nothing high-tech about it; it is a process virtually unchanged here for generations.

Most of this is legal, with tippers getting permission from landowners, usually involving some sort of payment. But for others less scrupulous, it is a Christmas caper, a way of making a little extra money, if you don’t get caught.

There are several verbs tip and many uses for them. But I don’t suppose I can close this discussion without mentioning the money-exchange verb tip (I tipped her 20% of the bill) thanks to the popular etymythology for it, which takes it to be an acronym for to insure promptness.

The story starts with the transitive motion verb, in a slang use ‘to give; to hand, pass; to let one have’ (OED2), first attested in 1610, and then specialized about 1700 to:

To give a gratuity to; to bestow a small present of money upon (an inferior), esp. upon a servant or employee of another, nominally in return for a service rendered or in order to obtain an extra service; also upon a child or schoolboy.

From this we get a noun, first attested in 1755, in the sense ‘a small present of money given to an inferior, esp. to a servant or employee of another for a service rendered or expected; a gratuity, a douceur’.

All these developments are entirely ordinary; an appeal to an acronymic source for the verb is not only silly, but gratuitous.

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