Mar 9, 2014


commentary by killre

First, let me get this out of the way:  Isn't it ironic, if you count all the drafts and unpublished manuscripts and especially the unwieldy host of poems for which various writers could think of no heading, the word untitled is perhaps the single most-used title in literary history?

Here's something else I find odd...

The word titillate means "to stimulate by tickling," or "to excite agreeably."  It's origin is firmly rooted in Latin, in which titillare meant "to tickle."  That's fitting, I suppose, since titillate makes the more juvenile among us giggle and the less juvenile among us want to.  (One might even go so far as to describe this expression of mirth as a titter-- which, for those of you who don't know, is a word and doesn't mean what you think.)

The reason we want to giggle, of course, is because the first syllable of titillate is "tit," which bears a striking resemblance to the word tit.  Tit is a word with an oddly elliptical evolution.  It is derived from the Middle English word teat, which itself is derived from the Olde Englishe word tit.  (This makes it perhaps the best linguistic example of the benefits of cutting out the middleman.)  The word has several unrelated meanings.  Its best-known definition is as a crass synonym for breast.  Its ultimate origins could be Germanic, Scandinavian, Celtic... none of which are Latin.

That's why I think it's strange, while the origins of the word titillate have nothing to do with those of the word tit (nor vice versa), you never hear titillate used except in discussions about breasts.

P.S.... Bud "I Recently Found Out Tommyknocker Doesn't
          Mean What I Think It Did Either" Selig must go.

No comments: