Mel and I were talking about the word “whippersnapper” the other day. She thought the term was “whimpersnapper,” which apparently is a common mistake. After getting her straightened out on that point, I was wondering what the origin of this word is. It seems natural that “whippersnapper” would be derived from “whipsnapper”, but it’s unclear how that came to be used by elders referring to unruly youth.
There seem to be two opinions on the matter. Dictionary.com claims that it’s a derivative of “snipper-snapper,” but I haven’t found any mention of this term independent of whippersnapper. The Online Etymology Dictionary offers both snipper-snapper and whip-snapper as precursors, but their relationship to the meaning still doesn’t make sense to me.