"I don't give a rip!" What's a "rip"?



The title is pretty self-explanatory, but let me give some detail.

I'm a native English speaker from the USA. I know exactly what that statement means and how to use it. I heard my Pastor use it recently in a sermon, and it got me thinking how one would respond to the charge:

Person 1: "That happened, and you don't give a rip!"

Person 2: "Yes, I do!"

Ok, so that makes sense. But without the initial statement to which you can respond, how would you indicate the opposite of:

"I don't give a rip?"

Obviously, there's the straightforward:

"I do care"

But can one say this?

"I give a rip!"

I don't think I've ever heard that except as a direct response to not giving a rip.

Which brings me back to my question:

In this context, what's a rip and how does one give it, anyway?


Posted 2015-02-09T15:04:24.640

Reputation: 355

1I would not use "I give a rip!". In my AmE dialect, "rip" has a sense of worthlessness that makes it not an exact synonym with "I give a damn!". I don't give a rip what the bloggers say, I'm the only person around here who gives a damn about it. You could substitute many other words for "damn" to avoid swearing - hoot and shake are some alternatives. It loses some emphasis though - I would typically just say "I'm the only one that cares about it." instead of substituting a euphemism. – ColleenV – 2015-02-09T15:34:12.840

@ColleenV I agree with you, except in the immediate context of replying to the charge of "not giving a rip". In that case, replying "Yes, I do!" has the implicit connotation of "giving a rip". Thus, my question. ;-) – mbm29414 – 2015-02-09T18:12:17.523

You wouldn't say "I give a rip!" though. I think most folks would say "I do care!" or "Yes I do!", as you've mentioned, and not repeat the "rip". – ColleenV – 2015-02-09T18:28:05.070

2@ColleenV Probably, but I could see someone responding (perhaps tongue-in-cheek) with, "Yes, I do give a rip!" Unlikely and uncommon, for sure, but still, I'd know what they mean. – mbm29414 – 2015-02-09T18:35:54.323

3Though I like Piper's answer below, I also note that one can "rip a fart," which is what I always assumed a "rip" referred to. – Jason Patterson – 2015-02-09T23:41:12.587



I think in this context "a rip" is simply a euphemism, a more socially acceptable version of a stronger swear word. One can, after all, give or not give:
-a damn
-a darn
-a good goddamn
-a fuck (possibly even a flying fuck)
-a shit (or two shits)
-a hoot (or even a hoot in hell)
-a tinker's damn/dam
-a pair of dingo's kidneys
or many, many other things. Many of them would probably not be said by a pastor giving a sermon! So to give the same sense, but in a less offensive manner, you can choose another word, and "a rip" happens to be one of the idiomatic choices that appears to stem from a general association of "rip" with worthlessness.


Posted 2015-02-09T15:04:24.640

Reputation: 25 636

1The article in the link is very interesting. It might be helpful if you mentioned your dialect - I haven't heard "dingo's kidneys" before. – ColleenV – 2015-02-09T15:39:41.950


@ColleenV - I am from New York City, but I think "dingo's kidneys" was coined by Douglas Adams of Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy fame, and has since escaped into wider usage.

– stangdon – 2015-02-09T16:26:40.690

@stangdon I think this is probably the best answer I can get, but your answer gives me more questions, like, what is "a darn" and how does one give it? So, I guess the root of the question is why/how we got away from just saying "I don't care." As I mentioned, I'm a native AmE speaker, so I'm fluent in their usage, but I still wonder sometimes... Anyway, accepted! – mbm29414 – 2015-02-09T18:21:18.810

3@mbm29414 I wonder if this question would be better on ELU. Idioms can evolve to be so far removed from their original meanings that it's impossible to make literal sense of them anymore. – ColleenV – 2015-02-09T18:58:20.920

2@ColleenV Now I'm chagrined! I got to this site via the "Hot Network Questions" from StackOverflow and didn't look closely enough! Whoops! Then again, the original question is probably helpful to a non-native speaker who is confused by the idiom. – mbm29414 – 2015-02-09T19:04:29.477

@mbm29414 - As best I can tell, there's a very old tradition of saying X is not worth a Y, where Y is something of very little value, and from there it may have morphed into I would not give a Y for an X. But I agree with ColleenV about ELU being a better fit. – stangdon – 2015-02-09T19:04:53.133

@mbm29414 I do think your question is useful here (as do at least 5 other people :) ) but I think you might get some interesting perspectives on ELU also. – ColleenV – 2015-02-09T19:12:06.533

@ColleenV I'm not as practiced on the non-StackOverFlow sites. Would people be upset of posting a direct duplicate on a different site? – mbm29414 – 2015-02-09T19:14:19.533

@mbm29414 I think an exact duplicate would be a mistake - you might want to link to this question, and elaborate a little on the original given our discussion here. There are some issues with migrating questions from beta sites that I don't fully understand and I think it is useful to learners here, so I'd hate to see it migrated away. – ColleenV – 2015-02-09T19:42:16.220

I think noteworthy would be give a [animal]'s [body part] with rat's ass being the most common but I've heard a lot of different takes matching that pattern. – corsiKa – 2015-02-09T22:17:42.740

@mbm29414 - "Cross-posting" on any two SE sites is discouraged, even though plenty of sites have overlapping scopes. – J.R. – 2015-02-09T22:52:42.253

@J.R. I know that and agree with the sentiment (thus my question). If, however, we assume ColleenV is correct, is her suggestion the appropriate way to handle this one? – mbm29414 – 2015-02-09T23:01:18.747

@mbm29414 - I think the best thing in this case is to leave the question here, as Colleen suggests. If you can think of a follow-on question with a different angle that would be of interest to "linguists, etymologists, or serious English language enthusiasts," then you could ask that follow-on question there. – J.R. – 2015-02-10T01:28:21.283

Hilarious that this question is now the 3rd link in the google link given as a list of references to Dingo's Kidneys. A self fulfilling prophecy of sorts. – paqogomez – 2015-02-10T17:45:07.477


According to Etymology Online:

rip (n.2)

"thing of little value," 1815, earlier "inferior or worn-out horse" (1778), perhaps altered from slang rep (1747) "man of loose character; vicious, reckless and worthless person," which itself is perhaps short for reprobate (n.).

Which seems logical enough.


Posted 2015-02-09T15:04:24.640

Reputation: 251


Wow, it really is horses all the way down!

– default.kramer – 2015-02-10T14:50:54.483


I've not heard this particular usage before, but I suspect it's US rural/dialectal. There are many versions of "I don't give a fig/damn/toss/monkey's/rat's arse/etc.", where the primary "meaning" is that the thing you don't "give" is something worthless/inconsequential. So here it could be OED's definition #2...

rip - A handful of the stalks of unthreshed grain or hay, esp. as a decoration or sample; (also) a single stalk of this kind

...or (given that the above is primarily Scottish/Irish), perhaps it's more likely to be definition #6...

rip - A worthless or worn-out horse; one that is of inferior quality. Also occas. applied to cattle.

Of course, any individual speaker may have no idea exactly what he's "not giving" - he may simply think of it as a meaningless euphemism standing in for one of the more common profane alternatives.

Unless there's a somewhat contrived context contrasting negated/non-negated usages ("He doesn't give a damn about me!" - "Forget him! - I give a damn!") you wouldn't normally try to apply this idiomatic usage to non-negated contexts.

FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica

Posted 2015-02-09T15:04:24.640

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