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Etymonline presents us with a rather brief and uninformative

"something of exceptional strength," 1840, probably from rip (v.) + snort (q.v.).

Does anyone have any more detail on the origins of this word?

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Is the "exceptional strength" referring to potency (i.e. of a drink) or physical prowess? – MrHen Apr 1 '11 at 19:36
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"Ripsnorter" is likely to have originated in the 19th century when such novel words as "rambunctious" and "stemwinder" were considered humorous. They are sometimes cited as evidence of the robust and inventive U.S. culture of the time.

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Eric Partridge lists it as

rip-snorter Anything exceptionally good; an eccentric or very entertaining person: Australian: since ca. 1910. Baker. Adopted from U.S.

[From A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, Seventh Edition, p. 1368 (supplement)]

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Perhaps it is related to the SNORT of somebody who was caught off guard by something entirely hilarious.

A sneeze or a snort could wrack your body, or rip through it.

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