Discuss word origins and meanings.
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Post by Ken Greenwald » Tue Aug 18, 2015 11:49 pm


I was reading an article titled “Covering up A Topless Tradition” on how after
. . . 45 years readers of, the country's [[U.K.]] best-selling newspaper, The Sun, have turned to Page 3 of the tabloid and been greeted with a photo of a smiling topless model. . . . the Sun’s readers are mostly working-class men who, in the eyes of the middle-class feminists, can’t gawp at a pair of bare breasts without being overcome by dangerous passions."—The Week, 20 January, 2015.
Page 3 has been modified to still show the feminine bodies but with addition of bras. This is from the January issue of The Week so folks on the other side of the ravine will view this as old news and gawp should not surprise either. But over here I have never heard gawp used, although from the context its meaning is easily inferred.

So, for those like myself who were surprised to see the word, it is simply a British version of our good old ‘gawk.’ Who would have ever suspected? Not me!

And for those unfamiliar with one or the other:

GAWP (GAUP, GAP)/GAWK intransitive verb [1728/1785]: To stare openly at somebody/something in a rude or stupid manner, to look with amazement, wonder, or astonishment; to gaze open-mouthed; gape. <They were gawking/gawping at some pin-up.> <Should you get lost in a bad section of town, the pamphlet advised, don't gawp/gawk.>


gawp – dialectical survival of obsolete ‘galp,’ Middle English galpen, perhaps blend of galpen Middle Dutch to yawn and Middle English to ‘gape.’

gawk – perhaps from noun ‘gawk’ (a look, a glance); on the other hand, an iterative from the obsolete verb gaw (?circa 1200) to gape, stare, look intently.

(Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford Dictionaries, American Heritage Dictionary . . .)

The following quotes are from the Oxford English Dictionary and archived sources”:
<1728 ‘Syne till't he fell, and seem'd richt yap His mealtith quickly up to gawp.”—Fables and Tales by A. Ramsay [[Scottish poet]], page 12>

<1785 “We . . . do little else than sit in the chimney-corner, repeating over the same dull stories, or gawking at one another with sorry grimace.”—Life, Journals, and Correspondence of M. Cutler [[U.S.]], 1888), II. page 227>

<1862 "The whole table stared as we seated ourselves..‘How they gawk at you’, whispered Temperance.”—The Morgesons (1889) by Mrs. Stoddard [[U.S.]], xiii. page 68.>

<1905 "Many of the audience turned round to ‘gawk’—as he phrased it—at a poor fainting girl.”—Western Gazette (England), 30 March, page 8/1>

<1952 “I'm here to get on with the job, not to gawp at the clients.”—Body in Beck by J. Cannan [[British]], vii, page 34>

<1965 Gawking in wonder at the falling bombs.”—Siege of Alcázar (1966) by C. D. Eby [[U.S.)]], ii. page 58>

<1987 “Hence, Denela Ghost Tours . . . For any tourist who would rather know about ghosts than gawk at Big Ben.”—Los Angeles Times (California), 14 June, page 1>

<2010 “-- or drew fashionable 18th-century ladies to join guided tours of the local mental hospital to gawp at the inmates.”—Daily Mail (London (UK)) 23 July, page14.”

<2015 “The programme seeks to answer these questions but it's also a reality show where we're invited to gawp at posh brats mixing with rough kids.”—The Herald (Glasgow, UK), 18 August>
Note: gawp/gawk is: 1) also a noun meaning: An awkward, foolish, loutish person; an oaf; a simpleton. 2) Left, as in gawk-handed seems, oddly enough, turns out to be a British dialect expression. (Oxford English Dictionary, American Heritage Dictionary, . . . [Note: My ". . ." indicates dictionaries I used to get a word or two from, whereas the named dictionaries were my main source.]

Ken G – August 18, 2015 (Stop gawping at those naked models, guys - it's bad for your digestion.)

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