According to Michael Quinion, "This delightful word from rural America, meaning something violent, extravagant, vigorous or a striking example of its kind, has become known everywhere that English is spoken."
So why the pictureof Davy Crockett? I hear you ask. Well,
Mr Quinion goes on to say:
"Its first appearance, in 1840, was attributed to Davy Crockett ('Of
all the ripsnorters I ever tutched upon, thar never war one that
could pull her boat alongside of Grace Peabody') " although he also goes on to say that the the authentiucity of this is debatable.
It's a good story though. So next time you write a 'ripsnorter' of a romance, spare a thought for Davy Crockett, who as well as defending the Alamo may possibly have invented this curious and interesting word.
*Thanks to Michael Quinion of WORLD WIDE WORDS. World Wide Words is copyright (c) Michael Quinion 2009. All rights reserved. The Words Web site is at http://www.worldwidewords.org