Wow! There are two of us on the Internet who know how to spell “bated” in this context!
“Baited” is only correct when you mean a catch in your voice
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.
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.
“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.
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.”
I’ve been champing at the bit for someone to address this issue.
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.
“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…
Agreed. But the subject was not the literal champing by horses, but the figurative champing (or chomping) at the bit by anxious humans
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.
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.
Or he could rename it, after, say, that well-known Scottish peeress Lady Mondegreen.
Loved this discussion - my wife is a former English teacher turned social worker
Yes, very appropriate for tidBITS.
I’m going to have to wait with bated breath for a new, next generation M chip, MacBook Pro.
I’m so glad everyone was able to home in on the point of this thread, rather than honing in on it.
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.
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.
Chomping at the bait, here.