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Tidbits and titbits

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maven
835363.  Fri Jul 29, 2011 1:16 am Reply with quote

In the Empire episode (series E, episode 12), Stephen Fry suggests that proof of Americans' prudishness is that they changed "titbit" to "tidbit."

In fact, the original word was tidbit (or rather "tyd bit"), first seen referencing a morsel of food in the 1640s. Titbit didn't appear until later, and solely in England, possibly altered due to the use of "tit" in other words meaning small (titmouse, for example).

References:
- The Oxford English Dictionary
- The Word Detective, column from March 26, 2002 (look for "A little birdie told me.")

 
samivel
835378.  Fri Jul 29, 2011 3:52 am Reply with quote

Mind you, they did change cockerel to rooster because it contains cock.

F'narr.

 
maven
835493.  Fri Jul 29, 2011 10:42 am Reply with quote

samivel wrote:
Mind you, they did change cockerel to rooster because it contains cock.


I'm not sure that that's true either. The OED listing for "rooster" references an older word, "roost-cock," which is British, and I think it may have come from that. "Rooster" is also listed not just as North American, but also appearing in Australia, New Zealand, and English regional.

This is similar to the way the tidbit / titbit example was presented on the show, as if a conscious choice was made to change this in the language. I think more likely, these changes come naturally, influenced by other words, regional variations, abbreviations, etc.

 
rewboss
835499.  Fri Jul 29, 2011 11:00 am Reply with quote

maven wrote:
The OED listing for "rooster" references an older word, "roost-cock," which is British, and I think it may have come from that.


Well, if you were intent on replacing a word you see as objectionable with one that isn't, you would probably prefer to use a word already in existence rather than invent one out of nowhere. I'm reminded of that video of the cute little toddler being told by her mother that she shouldn't say "ass", she should say "butt".

Quote:
I think more likely, these changes come naturally, influenced by other words, regional variations, abbreviations, etc.


Or indeed, in some cases, by fashion and the prevailing morality of the age, which to a certain extent possibly can be influenced. It's only social convention that words like "tit" are somehow offensive, or that there is something wrong with saying "shit" in polite company (the German equivalent "Scheiße" is quite acceptable in contexts such as "Was für einen Scheißtag", which translates as "What a lousy day").

It's hard to know, of course, what the real driving force behind such changes may be, and you're absolutely right to cast doubt on the perceived wisdom that Americans deliberately tried to coin euphemisms. But it might be possible -- think of the way people today refer to those of other races, and ask yourself whether some of the more offensive terms might not still be in use if people hadn't pointed out just how offensive they are.

 
Jenny
835694.  Sat Jul 30, 2011 10:40 am Reply with quote

Think also of merde, which is not an unacceptable word in France, even in polite company I think.

 
Flash
835769.  Sat Jul 30, 2011 5:33 pm Reply with quote

That looks like a good quibble by maven. Haven't checked the OED, but Etymonline seems to back it up, anyway.

 
Posital
835772.  Sat Jul 30, 2011 5:42 pm Reply with quote

Jenny wrote:
Think also of merde, which is not an unacceptable word in France, even in polite company I think.
Remembers Genevieve - it was considered a little risqué to have this book in school...

 
rewboss
835821.  Sun Jul 31, 2011 2:35 am Reply with quote

Jenny wrote:
Think also of merde, which is not an unacceptable word in France, even in polite company I think.


And the opposite can happen, as one English mayor found to his cost giving a speech at a twinning ceremony. In an attempt to impress, he said a few words in French, intending to say that he wished to welcome the men and kiss their wives. Unfortunately, since his schooldays, the word "baiser" had acquired a related, but very different, meaning, and the menfolk were startled to hear that the mayor wanted to fornicate with their spouses.

 
'yorz
835832.  Sun Jul 31, 2011 4:06 am Reply with quote

Wrong. Baiser and baisser are different words. One means to kiss, the other to shag.
For pronunciation, click.

 
rewboss
835888.  Sun Jul 31, 2011 10:44 am Reply with quote

Close but no cigar. "Baisser" means "to lower", "to reduce". The popular misconception that it means "shag" comes from the fact that "Baisse-toi!" as a command means "Bend over!" often in order to receive a good shagging.

References:

http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/baiser
http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=baiser
http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/baisser
http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=baisser

 
'yorz
835890.  Sun Jul 31, 2011 10:51 am Reply with quote

Did you deliberately bring the cigar into it?

Anyhoo - my knowledge of baiser/baisser was based on my extended séjour in Bruxelles. Which may account for different linguistic takes.
I take your/wiki's word for it.


Last edited by 'yorz on Sun Jul 31, 2011 10:53 am; edited 1 time in total

 
rewboss
835891.  Sun Jul 31, 2011 10:52 am Reply with quote

As Freud himself once said, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. :)

 
'yorz
835894.  Sun Jul 31, 2011 11:03 am Reply with quote

Boring old fart he was.

Here's his Ballad.

 
rewboss
835898.  Sun Jul 31, 2011 12:00 pm Reply with quote

I'm sure that's a fantastic video, 'yorz, but it's blocked from Germany.

 
'yorz
835899.  Sun Jul 31, 2011 12:18 pm Reply with quote

Honest?! I thought YouTube was available all over the place. Do you have access to other sources?
It's the Chad Mitchell Trio, Return to Cargenie Hall album.

 

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