How did “kibitzer” originate?

January 26, 2017 | Author: | Posted in Language

A kibitzer is a person who meddles in the affairs of other people, particularly one who, while not a player himself, watches a card game from behind the players and gives unasked for advice. By extension the term is applied to any individual who is always ready to give advice on any subject whether he knows anything about it or not.

Kibitzer is derived through Yiddish from colloquial German Kiebitz, the name of the Old World bird variously known in English as lapwing, peewit and green plover. This bird, it is said, not only stands around in the fields and watches farmers work, but by its shrill cry scares game away upon the approach of hunters.

Accordingly in the sixteenth century card players in Germany applied the term to meddlesome spectators, particularly onlookers at card games who by their comment annoyed the players and gave their opponents information. It is supposed that kiebitz was imitative in origin and was suggested by the bird’s characteristic call.

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