My late campus preaching associate, Brother Max Lynch, used the term “young whippersnapper” to refer to fledgling preachers, who were irritatingly overconfident, impertinent and presumptuous.
Brother Max was 13 years older than me; he has been with the Lord for about 15 years. Max was faithful to the end; he had health issues so that the last few years of his campus ministry were limited to passing out his hard-hitting tracts.
Max and I observed over the years numerous open-air preachers come and go. Some started with a bang but ended with a whimper.
Although “whippersnapper” is usually applied to the young, it can be applied to older preachers as well, such as those who want to snap the whip over others with whom they disagree. They see it as their job to police the so-called street preacher community.
Some snap the whip my way for what they perceive as being my short-comings or even sins, especially in regards to my defense of Joel Osteen and what they perceive as my softness concerning Roman Catholicism. They can barely stand my carrying a staff crucifix. I have been rebuked privately and publicly. One old friend even accused me of turning “mellow yellow” in my old age.
The word whippersnapper is not much used anymore. George “Gabby” Hayes, who played the grizzled codger to the leading man in old western films, often uttered the word.
Although the young whippersnappers can be annoying, I am glad that they are preaching outside and calling sinners to repentance and faith. Over the years, I have also seen young whippersnappers become mature and faithful preachers.
I suppose the whippersnappers perceive me as an “old goat.”
I do not know the etymology of “young whippersnapper” but I suppose it originally referred to a young ox-driver or teamster. Working oxen are taught to respond to the signals of the teamster or ox-driver. These signals are given by verbal command and body language, reinforced by a whip, when necessary.
Or perhaps “young whippersnapper” applied initially to young men with too much leisure, who would crack their whips in camp to show off their supposed skills. But when it came to actually driving the oxen, they weren’t as skilled as they thought.
The experienced driver usually does not have to use the whip but drives the ox with verbal commands such as “giddyup” or “whoa.” Whereas the novice often has to snap the whip because he may not really know his oxen, nor do the oxen know him. The young whippersnapper might show off more authority than he actually possessed by cracking his whip.
My great grandfather, Curtis Hatfield, drove the oxen west during the California Gold Rush. He walked beside the oxen as they pulled the wagon. He was a gentle driver.