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WordWealth: cumshaw

cum·shaw , n.

a present; gratuity; tip.

[1810–20; < dial. Chin (Xiamen) kam siā, equiv. to Chin gân xič grateful thanks] (Random House Webster's Unabridged)

There are now strict rules against payoffs, and senior managers must sign monthly statements that all sales have been made . . . 'with no cumshaw whatsoever.'" —— Louis Kraar; Fortune; Oct 1977

Did you know? (Merriam-Webster)
It was probably British Navy personnel who first picked up "cumshaw" in Chinese ports, during the First Opium War of 1839–42. "Cumshaw" is from a word that means "grateful thanks" in the dialect of Xiamen, a port in southeast China. (Rendered "kam sia" in the Pinyin system of romanizing Chinese words, it’s still a common expression used by about one billion Chinese to show grateful thankfulness.) Apparently, sailors heard it from the beggars who hung around the ports, and mistook it as the word for a handout. Since then, U.S. sailors have given "cumshaw" its own unique application, for something obtained through unofficial means (whether deviously or simply ingeniously). Outside of naval circles, meanings of "cumshaw" range from a harmless gratuity to bending the rules a little to outright bribery.

 


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