You Can Tip A Waiter, But Not A Cow

800px-Cow_lying_on_sideSome call it a prank (a trick you play on someone to make them look silly). Others call it an urban legend (something many believe although it may not be true). I say it’s both. One thing is certain: it refuses to die (go away, disappear). What I’m talking about is cow tipping.

The tipping we’re probably most familiar with is that small amount of money we give to people who do something for us. For example, I tip waiters, taxi drivers, cleaning staff in hotels, and the lady who cuts my hair.

The verb tip can also mean to move something so that it leans to one side. And if we tip something far enough, there may be some unexpected or unwanted results. Let me give you some examples: If I tip my chair back, it rests on two legs rather than four. And if I tip it too far, the chair and I fall over backwards. If I tip my cup of tea too far, the tea will spill out onto the table. And since we’re talking about cows, many believe that The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 started when a cow kicked a lantern (a lamp that you carry), tipping it over so the burning oil spilled out and caused the hay (long dry grass used for feed) in a barn (farm building for animals) to burn. However, that may be another urban legend.

Cow tipping is the supposed (people say its true, but you don’t believe it) activity of sneaking up on (approaching quietly so they don’t notice) a standing, sleeping cow at night and pushing it over (off of its feet). Some even claim (say it’s true) that if you do this, the cow can’t get up again.

I was surprised when cow tipping became a hot (popular) topic on the Internet for a few days earlier this month. It seemed to be everywhere. The reason was an article – Cow Tipping: Fake (not real) or Really Fake? – by Jake Swearingen on the Modern Farmer website.

The writer’s conclusion is simple: cow tipping does not exist. You can’t sneak up on a standing cow, asleep or awake,  and tip it over. He gave several reasons.

First of all, cows don’t sleep standing up. And even if they did, they have no trouble getting up again after they have been lying on their stomachs. In addition, cows are wary (cautious; alert) animals, so it’s difficult to sneak up on them at any time.

Second, there’s no evidence that anyone has ever done it. According to Swearingen, you can’t even find an example of cow tipping on YouTube.

Finally, in 2005 two scientists from the University of British Columbia ran the numbers (did the mathematical ,calculations) to see if cow tipping is physically (using the laws of physics) possible. Their conclusion: it would take at least five people. Fewer might be able to do it if the cow was rigid (didn’t move), but the possibility of tipping a real cow is very low.

No one’s quite sure where the idea of cow-tipping got started. You’ll find it, or something similar to it, in a few American movies and television programs. I remember it from my high school days. It was a popular prank to play on kids, usually from the city, who weren’t familiar with cows.

So, if you’re a city kid (someone who grew up in a city) and you visit someone who lives on a farm, let me give you a tip (small piece of advice): if they say, “Let’s go cow tipping tonight!”, smile and say “No, thank you.”. That is, of course, unless you’re too tipsy (drunk) to care and don’t mind stepping in a few cow pies (manure; a flat, round piece of solid waste from a cow) while looking for that standing, sleeping cow that doesn’t exist.

~ Warren Ediger – ESL tutor/coach and creator of Successful English, where you’ll find clear explanations and practical suggestions for better English.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

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15 Responses to You Can Tip A Waiter, But Not A Cow

  1. Aécio Flávio Perim says:

    Very interesting this story about cows. Those who live in a farm is familiar with animals like cows but those who live in city believe that milk comes from a carton where milk is keeped inside. It is said that only one thing you miss from a cow: fart. The moo from a cow is like a song for those ears that appreciate weird sounds.
    Who doesn’t like a thick rare steak with fried potatoes? Who doesn’t like a cake made of flour, eggs, milk with a strawberry cream cover? It is better to stop before someone goes to attack a refigerator and get stuff with full power.
    This time I was the first to write words for the subject presented by Jeff. Emilian, Dan and others always arrive before me, but today I think they have slept too much. Well, folks, it is a pleasure to be here with you all and read your ideas about a a variety of subjects, for I can learn more and more English. Don’t forget to show your ideas here.
    Pay close attention on this following words: “Do not treat God’s name lightly or with disrespect. Because of God’s importance, his name is always to be spoken of with honor.” If you still don’t know the ten commandments of God, ask me to tell you them.
    Aecio from beautiful blue, yellow and green Brazil.

  2. Dan says:

    Hey Warren.

    I am afraid it is far more hard getting a today’s kid putting down the smartphone than really tipping a cow.

    I bet if you tell a kid that cow’s story they look up at the app store to see if there is an app for that.

    Today I was in the waiting room to the dentist for my annual dental hygiene (€75,00) and there were these two kids staring at their smartphones like zombies.

    I do not know, I would have probably behaved the same at their age, they are growing up with that.

    Thank you

  3. Wang says:

    Dear Warren!

    This is really an informational topic…sorry, I have to admit that I don’t know while sleeping, the cows they stand or lie down on the ground. Yes, I was a city kid!

    I saw cow strolling and lying down in ranch…but for noticing their sleeping, I haven’t! But I think the idea of tipping a cow is somehow funny!…how can on earth people overturn a cow by themselves?

    I mean by one person. Personally, I don’t want to make a cow get mad at me as he senses there is something harmful running in my mind :D. They are gentle animals but don’t turn their stomachs

    Best regard!


  4. Myo ko ko says:

    Hi, Warren,
    Today I get a common prank from you – cow tipping.
    Also a good approach to acquire the second language.
    Your post is that informative.

    At first I didn’t get the idea of cow tipping because I have never heard of such a silly idea in my whole lifetime.
    Who on this earth got this idea out of his head?

    It’s interesting that the author points out three arguements to pour the cold water on cow tipping.
    And personally I agree with them. Warren, I grew up running across the fieles, farms.
    So I think I know a thing or two about cows and oxes, especially their behaviours and manners.
    Yes, while a horse sleeps standing up but a cow doesn’t.
    ( She may take a nap standing up, but I need to ask her if she does to comfirm! 🙂 )
    Cows are naturally wary and cautious creatures.
    They know by instinct when strangers approach up them. That makes sneaking up on them difficult.

    When I read they do maths to see if cow tipping is possible in theory,
    I remember one of our Blog friends, Sergio, a Physiscs teacher and his words he once wrote ” to live, to die . . . . better.”
    If he were here now he would have to say a lot on this topic. We don’t know where he is now. I miss his notes.
    Yes theoratically to tip a cow needs a sudden and brute force to apply to one side of the cow.
    They calculate it by using Newton’s Second Law; F = ma.
    They found that one person’s strength is not enough to get this required force. But two people, it is possible.

    From a science guy’s viewpoint,
    Cow tipping is, by chance, still possible by even one person.
    Because we has this statement that roughly says “a situation, an idea, a thing with a slight possibility of 0.00000001 can be possible on this earth.”

    But all and all, the idea of tipping a cow is silly from get-go and there is nothing to get from it by doing so.
    But this idea will live on will refuse to die as long as there is at least one person who ever wants to play prank on others, I think.

    BTW, Warren,
    It is really useful for us to learn a word with different meanings; to tip a waiter, to tip a thing,
    to give a tip, cow tipping, to be tipsy, . . . another word? Oh I forget, it is on the tip of my tounge! 😉

    Warren, your post makes me brainstorm a lot.
    I truely enjoy reading yours. Thanks.

    Wish you a happy day
    Myo ko ko

    Hey, Aecio
    I’m not from Japan but from Myanmar.
    And it is a bit odd that you had this feeling that I’m from Japan, because of my name?

    I’m glad you found my comment to be funny.
    Truth be told, like you, me too always want to hear compliments about our beloved teachers Jeff and Lucy.
    So whenever I get chance, I myself try to compose a word or two here that I think compliments our teachers.
    (You see it is like ” Speaker is me, and the listener is aslo me.” 😉 )
    I am just singing their praises. I am just contributing what I can. I am just holding up my end by writing here.
    That is it. There is nothing more at my part.

    So you know Aecio,
    I’ll be with my best complimenting our teachers with the language they taught me.
    As you may have noticed by now,
    They have been giving us to the upmost what an ESL teacher can ever give.

    Of course I know you writing here and I read your comments.
    Thank you for your notes here and heartfully wish many more to come from you.
    Aecio, my friend, you never know,
    We ESL students and of course our teachers Jeff and Lucy here are always pleased to read what our friends from
    different walks of life who have landed on this lovely Blog have to say.
    So just drop a line or two here whenever you’d like to and whenever you have time.
    You’re always and ever welcome, my friend. Keep up the good work!
    BTW, how did you run across this ESL podcasts?

    Myo ko ko

  5. Aécio Flávio Perim says:

    Myo ko ko, it’s a long story how I got ESL. First I made Jeff my friend and we traded some e-mails in my e-mail account. Then I found the ESL and became adicted to it. Good for me because I found good friends like you, Emiliano and Phuc here. Of course I will keep on writing my comments, some of them kind of foolish but that’s me. Do you want to know Brazil? Come and see this wonderful land, lovely people, putting aside bad ones, as in other lands. I feel happy to read your and other’s comments. They are helpful and teach me a lot.
    Aecio from the wonderful land.
    Read this and give your apinion about it: A picture is worth a thousand words.
    See you soon.

  6. Myo ko ko says:

    Thanks Aecio to hear like that and of course for invitation to your blue, green and yellow land.
    If I won lottery, I am sure I would pay your nation a visit! 😉
    It’s a bit weird that you first had contact with Jeff via email and only after that you came across the podcast.
    Me stumbled upon the great podcasts on the Web first and then emailed him.
    My emails to Jeff are always full of gibberish as I’m not good at composing an email.
    But as you know Jeff is so nice as to put up with them. Jeff, right? 😉

  7. Myo ko ko says:

    You see, in the 8th anniverary video,
    Jeff has a tough body build with six packs .
    Don’t you think Jeff has enough strength to knock a cow over?
    A good tip: first make Jeff tipsy and then challenge him if he dares tip a cow.
    I’m on Jeff side, he dares do cow tipping. I bet.

    Jeff my teacher
    Don’t let Warren look upon you, and show you are not a coward by going cow tipping tonight! 😛

    Just trying to be funny

  8. Aécio Flávio Perim says:

    Myo ko ko, hi!
    That’s right! Who doesn’t want to win the lottery? Even me! But is it necessary to win the lottery to pay a fare to Brazil? Who knows I can help you to make your dream come true?
    Wonderful, excellent, joyful, merry, heaven.
    Aecio from here.

  9. Myo ko ko says:

    Hey Aecio,
    Didn’t you notice that I used “if conditional ” structure — “If I won (not win) the lottery, I would . . . .”
    By that, I was just joking you and to emphasize that I even added an “emotion” ( 😉 ) at the end of the sentence.
    Because for me to win the lottery is almost impossible just because I’m an always-unlucky guy.”

    But I’m really glad to tell you that I has been to your land, Brazil for once.
    Yeah last night I was visting your country and got a lot of pleasure.
    But found myself on my bed this early morning! 😉

    Yours buddy
    Myo ko ko

  10. Tania says:

    Hi! Funny title! “You Can Tip A Waiter, But Not A Cow”
    Thank you for the explanation of such many meanings of the verb “tip”.
    I like cows for their calm sight, for their large eyes, for their babies, and for their warm and sweet milk.

  11. Tania says:

    Have a good time on your holidays, Dan!

  12. Ben says:

    How are you doing,everyone.
    I like the title of this post, Warren ,which actually confused me first and became stimulating to me after reading this post then.
    I am afraid I seldom went to countryside and honestly I am entirely a city kid.
    This post has reminded me of one stimulating experience in the countryside when I was just a kid.
    I remembered clearly that it was my first time to go to countryside.
    Everything I spoted can make me easily excited.And the most exciting thing,maybe gross to someone,happened to me was that
    I came across a fresh cow pie,which totally freak me out.What a large manure and how amazing the cow is!That is the first phrase came up in my mind.
    And when I caught sight of a cow for the first time,I could not help marvelling that I was so small comparing with this kind of animal.
    So it is so tough to push a cow over for a ordinary person,even in a quick and quiet way.That means this is a mission impossible,which cannot be finished
    by Tom Cruise I guess.

  13. Gastón Guerrero. says:

    Prank, I have not heard that word since aussie radio workers made that kind of joke to a nurse in a hospital in GB, where Duchess Kate stayed to give birth, those DJ’s told her they were the queen Elizabeth and prince Charles and wanted some information about Kate, unfortunately, this security mistake ended up with that nurse commiting suicide.
    I wonder if pranks are useful in some ways, maybe it help to realize or just to question ourself about the reality; what it means or how is building, it seems an interesting exercice to think about it.
    greetings, Gastón.

  14. emiliano says:

    Bravo Myo Ko Ko, we really miss you here my friend, your long long notes
    even longer than mine are necessary to all us, you are really amazing my
    dear mail partner …..yes Myo ko ko, still I am remembering some of
    our mails.

    Thanks a lot Warren, your notes are always a great lesson of English to
    all of us.

    Gaston I agree with you absolutely, prank could be dangerous for lot of people
    still I remember the por woman or girl in England, it has not any fun absolutely
    it was a big tragedy. So, please be careful with prank, not every one are
    similar in this our complicate world.


    I was with my mouth open, first time I have seen so many notes of
    Aecio replying a friend here.

    Bravo Aecio, I hope you´ll do if more frequently. So Myo ko ko you
    know how to tip him enough with your nice words.

    See you friends.

  15. Lassana says:

    Hi Everyone,

    Seriously ? I think it´s so crazy to know that some people believe that ! cows tipping…
    I agree with you Warren, I think it´s a kind of legend intended to child (books), maybe a sort of tales, etc
    Moreover, when we go out of cities and drive along fields, we often see cows lying on the grass in order to eat and to rest.

    See you soon !


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