30-Second Word Whoop: “Swipe”

Cashier carefully watches to make sure I swipe correctly, as opposed to swiping something from the store.

In the Eighties in my Detroit ‘hood, “swipe” meant only to steal. That was before possessions, like cars, were “jacked” — and we’re not talking the kind of jacking done to change a tire.

The most common “swipe” these days is what you do at the cashier on cue: Swipe your card NOW! Still often involves highway robbery, but we give authorization.

Interesting how the first dictionary definition of “swipe” involves physical violence:

1. a strong, sweeping blow, as with a cricket bat or golf club.

2. Informal: a swing of the arm in order to strike somebody; punch.

It also informally refers to “a critical or cutting remark.” Or, arcanely, to “a leverlike device for raising or lowering a weight, especially a bucket in a well; sweep.”

No doubt habitual swiping will lead to some sort of repetitive motion injury among consumers, as swiping machines are continually redesigned.

What pains me is the variety of machines out there, and the impatient checkout clerks who bark instructions at you a beat too soon when you are merely straining to read the screen.

Sometimes makes me want to take a swipe at someone.

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About Terry Byrne

Writer-editor with deep reservations about holding her tongue. Fan of both nature and nurture. Lifelong fascination with gender studies, sexuality, music and brainpower.

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