Champing with bated breath

Wow! There are two of us on the Internet who know how to spell “bated” in this context!

7 Likes

“Baited” is only correct when you mean a catch in your voice

:rofl:

Actually, “Baited” in this context implies worms on your tongue.

Bated breath is a phrase that means to hold one’s breath due to suspense, trepidation or fear. Bated breath is a phrase first mentioned in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. The word bated is an abbreviation of the word abated, meaning to lessen in severity or amount.

5 Likes

Yup, and in English novels of certain period weary horses were always getting bated in inn yards too. But wait, bait/breath–> catch/voice, haha? No? Yeah, pretty lame.

1 Like

“Baited breath” is used when breath is being used as a bait. To quote W.C. Fields: “The clever cat eats cheese and breathes down rat holes with baited breath.

W. C. Fields

Margaret Thatcher also used “bated” correctly, in a twist on the title of a Christopher Fry play:

“ “To those waiting with bated breath for that favorite media catchphrase, the U-turn, I have only this to say, ‘You turn if you want; the lady’s not for turning.”

2 Likes

I’ve been champing at the bit for someone to address this issue.

3 Likes

@MMTalker
If there’s anything worse than chomping at the bit, it’s quibbling over usage in an instance where there are two acceptable forms of an expression. Me? I’m old and I say champing, but I don’t get the vapours when someone says chomping. If I had anything against chomping it would be that champing has a more pleasant sound to my ears. Champing will soon enough disappear and become unknown to all but those who read certain kinds of books, I suspect.

1 Like

Champing will soon enough disappear and become unknown to all but those who read certain kinds of books, I suspect.”

Or to anyone who has spent time around horses (even in the US)–horses chomp on feed, but champ at bits. Perhaps a dragon could succeed at actually chomping a bit, but horse teeth and jaws aren’t that strong…

2 Likes

Agreed. But the subject was not the literal champing by horses, but the figurative champing (or chomping) at the bit by anxious humans

1 Like

It was champing growing up here in Ireland but my American wife says chomping. Perhaps an Atlantean divide at some point.

I’d guess that the Irish grow up a little more familiar with horses than we do here, although I was taught to ride–on general principles, like learning to drive stick shift, in case it came in handy. But then my mother’s people were country. They said champing . . .

Soon, I imagine, the origin of the phrase will be lost, it’ll evolve into something half-heard and entirely misunderstood, and we’ll “chomp a bit” (as on gum?) while eagerly waiting for something. Or it won’t survive at all. Language (especially English, which has never had an Academie or Academia) does that daily as our needs change. I haven’t ridden a horse for sixty years.

2 Likes

And to throw an entirely other matter into the mix…

‘Champ’ as a noun is the term in Belfast for what the rest of Ireland call ‘Colcannon’, a rather tasty mix of buttered mashed potatoes mixed with cabbage and onion. Again, the mix is regionally dependent, my mother never used onion, my wife’s mother, originally from a few counties south of here, did (and indeed was right to).

And now, I fear, the English major running this joint will have to step in, lest this sidebar grows its own sidebar.

1 Like

Or he could rename it, after, say, that well-known Scottish peeress Lady Mondegreen.

2 Likes

Loved this discussion - my wife is a former English teacher turned social worker :scream: :clap:

1 Like

Yes, very appropriate for tidBITS.

1 Like

I’m going to have to wait with bated breath for a new, next generation M chip, MacBook Pro. :frowning_face:

I’m so glad everyone was able to home in on the point of this thread, rather than honing in on it. :slight_smile:

That said, I must issue a small correction: I have a double major in Hypertext Fiction and Classics from Cornell, not English (and Tonya’s degree is in Communications). But I do tremendously enjoy collegial discussions of linguistic arcana, and we have a long-running online account to the Chicago Manual of Style for looking up answers to more stylistic questions.

7 Likes

I don’t read the Chicago Manual of Style, but you can have my oxford comma when you pry it from my cold, dead, and lifeless hands.

4 Likes

Chomping at the bait, here.

3 Likes