Re: ti(d/t)bit

Subject: Re: ti(d/t)bit
From: Alun Whittaker <alun -at- CORTE-MADERA -dot- GEOQUEST -dot- SLB -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 9 Mar 1994 10:20:34 PST

> I'd always heard tid, but have noticed tit in writing, usually British. Any
> other thoughts?
> Bonni Graham
> In British, it means a tiny bit, as in "I'll have a tit of that" or "just
> a tit, please".
> Andreas Ramos, M.A. Heidelberg
I'm not sure what you mean by "British" but I grew up speaking Northern English
and spent time in Southern and Western England, North Wales, North-eastern
Scotland and Southern Eire. In none of those places did I hear the word "tit"
used to mean anything other than a small bird of the finch family or the
diminutive of teat both in reference to a breast (considered to be bad taste
and sexist) or the rubber do-hickey on the end of a baby's feeding bottle
(widely used in past but recently displaced by conspicuous overuse in the
former sense). Trust me Andreas, if you said either of those things at my
mother's dinner table you would get nothing but raised eyebrows!

I do remember well that, in all those places, the term "tidbit" was often
colloquially pronounced (though never written) "titbit" particularly when
used in reference to the presentation of food, e.g. a small and particularly
elegant or tasty culinary treat. I wonder, Bonni, if the examples you have
noticed were writer's attempts to render "colorful" regional accents in
a semi-phonetic form (a style that I hate and which renders much of
Dorothy L. Sayers work, for example, totally unreadable for me).

I also remember from my childhood, a weekly magazine which combined show
business scandals with risque cartoons and photographs of girls in bathing
suits or strategically placed bath towels (this was as racy as you could
be and still make the newsagent's counter in those innocent days). The title
of the magazine was "Tit-bits" which is the only time I remember seeing the
usage in print and which I always assumed to be a salacious pun.

I have no doubt the term originated as "tit bit" meaning literally a
brief suckle offered to calm a restive baby (rather than for sustenance).
However, as we saw in the previous thread, neither the origin nor the
logic of a colloquial phrase can hold sway over regional preference
when deciding proper usage.

alun -at- corte-madera -dot- geoquest -dot- slb -dot- com

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