Chipping in on ‘chipping in’ …


Twice in one week recently I received requests asking me ‘to chip in’, rather than make a contribution, or to donate money.  It made me wonder if it was the start of a trend, with  organisations trying to soften the bluntness of asking for money. After all, ‘chip in’ sounds much more reasonable, even communal.

The first example was an on-screen message from open-source web browser Mozilla Firefox, which reminded me that “if everyone reading this chipped in $3, we would be supported for another year.”

The second example was an email from the community campaigning platform 38 Degrees, looking to raise money to fund an investigation into Health Minister Jeremy Hunt’s plans to cut NHS services. Whoever wrote the email clearly wasn’t afraid of chipping in plenty of ‘chip in’ requests:

The OxfordDictionaries online defines chip in as:

phrasal verb

1 Contribute something as one’s share of a joint activity, cost, etc.:

‘Rollie chipped in with nine saves and five wins’

‘the council will chip in a further £30,000 a year’

2 Make an interjection:

‘‘He’s right,’ Gloria chipped in’

Curious to know more about the phrase I consulted my copy of Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable and found this:

Chip. Chip in, To.

(1) To make a contribution. (2) To interrupt. The first of these meanings derives from the game of poker, in which the chips, representing money, are placed by the players in the ‘pot’. The second may be from the same source.

The second meaning of chip in ‘to interrupt’ seems to be more commonly used in Britain. But it’s interesting that both meanings seems to derive from playing poker. Wonder if I can maintain a poker face when next asked to ‘chip in’ …





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