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Old 03-21-2005, 07:02 PM   #1
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Default OK: 'titbits' or 'tidbits'?

We have been having a debate below stairs about the use of ‘titbits’ or ‘tidbits’ on our home page. So I thought I would ask the rest of you (those who care to, anyway) to comment. I don’t promise to cave in, but am interested in knowing what you think.

I prepare the page, and I used ‘titbits’ deliberately (as I prefer it — mainly because it relates to the root of the word). The term, which means ‘little,’ or ‘tasty morsel,’ is related to ‘tittle’ (as in jot and tittle, and is also related to titmouse, titwillow, etc.) It refers to a small typographic mark. According to Matthew Carter, who is a scholar as well as a type designer, it was originally the name of a horizontal mark (like a dash or tilde) to indicate that a letter had been omitted in text.

The word is spelled ‘titbit’ in most of the English-speaking world — though not universally in North America. However, we do still say ‘tit for tat’ and ‘tittle-tattle,’ terms that are related to the root meaning of ‘tit.’

A forum member wrote to us, thinking the ‘titbits’ was a typo; and a member of our staff changed the word on the page.

The ‘tidbit’ spelling is American. Probably a result of the bowdlerization of language that occurred in the 19th century. But it is no more correct than ‘titbit’ (perhaps less so, in fact).

This is clearly not earth-shatteringly important, but it is an interesting topic for discussion.

Are you offended by ‘titbits’ or ‘tidbits’ or neither or both? Or do you simply not care? We would love to know.

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