Whenever it snows my mother always warns everyone about a “glip of ice” on the road. e.g. “Careful before that intersection, there’s a glip of ice that’s hard to see.” It can also refer to any large covering of ice, like on the driveway or sidewalk. But I’ve known since at least middle school that glip isn’t a real word. So I’m curious if this is an actual Pennsylvania regionalism or if her family (or maybe just her) made it up. She claims everyone from PA said it when she was growing up. Her parents died before I was born. I’ve known people from PA but they’ve all been 20 somethings who have no idea what I’m talking about.
Her background: She was born in 1945 and grew up around Bloomsburg and Harrisburg Pennsylvania. Her parents had German and English ancestors who were mostly farmers.
That second variant inspired me to Google “glib ice”, which turns out to be a Canadian idiom for ice that is “particularly smooth and slippery”.
So it looks as though we can tentatively confirm your guess that “a glip of ice” is a Pennsylvania regional variant of a better-known phrase “glib ice”. Thanks to your mom and Joseph Price for this interesting stroll down etymology lane!
I spent my entire life (40 years) in suburban Pittsburgh and have never heard the phrase before. I don’t think this is unique to western PA, but I know a lot of people that invent their own words and phrases. I’m “passing the spinach” on this one…
As far as I can tell, there is no German word “gliss” or “gliß”.
The English word glib dates back to the 1590’s in the sense of “smooth, slippery”. (It’s still widely used nowadays to refer specifically to smooth or slippery speech, especially in the sense of being facile or plausible but with connotations of deceptiveness.)
“Glib” is thought to derive from an obsolete term “glibbery” which may originate in Low German “glibberig”, both meaning “slippery”.
Not directly, since “glissade” is French. It is ultimately traced to a Proto-Germanic root *glidan, “to glide”, but AFAICT that’s not cognate with “glibberig/glib”.
It looks to me as though the etymology of “glip of ice” is pretty straightforward, at least according to all the available evidence. It seems almost certain to be a simple corruption of the well-attested phrase “glib ice”, which just means “smooth or slippery ice” (e.g., as used in the 1827 poem “A Winter’s Day” by John Clare):
The challenge here is not figuring out where the phrase “glip of ice” comes from, but tracing its use in Pennsylvania and/or elsewhere. (Hats off to FrustratedIdiot for finding another recorded reference.)