February 06, 2003

Please Bate Your Breath at the Door

"I'll wait with baited breath" I said aloud, sarcastically, to some politician making promises on the car radio yesterday. (He was sorely wounded by my biting retort). But then, as frequently happens when I am alone in the truck driving along on auto-pilot, my mind drifted and I wondered what the heck does this idiom mean! I guess I had always assumed it had something to do with smelly breath, what with bait typically being some kind of dead animal parts.

I wondered if it would have been appropriate to accuse the dog of baited breath when he licked me in the face that morning after sneakily eating the cat food (Tuna Delight). And when my friend sat his apple down accidentally on the squid that we were deep-sea fishing with, and then later, bit into it (the apple), that could be appropriately called baited breath in the most literal sense I could come up with. Past that, I didn't have a clue why I had used the phrase, and was almost certain that my personally concocted illustration of fish breath couldn't be right.

Oops. It turns out that it is Bated. Not baited. But wait. Maybe I was closer to right than I had thought! Let's follow the word trail...

BATE: (verb) To lessen by retrenching, deducting, or reducing; to
abate; to beat down; to lower.

But wait! I think I can wrest this one so as to retain my own peculiar interpretation of the word. We needs explore a wee bit further....

BATE: (verb) To steep in bate, as hides, in the manufacture of leather.

BATE: (noun) An alkaline solution consisting of the dung of certain animals

AND LATER we learn that this "bate" solution is "An infusion of pigeon's dung used by tanners to neutralize the effects of lime and give flexibility to skins.

I rest my case. I can be right after all. If your breath smells like pigeon poop, you, my kind sir, have bated breath. That's is my story, and I'm sticking to it. But then, that depends on what your definition of IS is.

Posted by fred1st at February 6, 2003 06:09 AM | TrackBack

my all time favorite is "Bob's your uncle" ;-) I love it so much I use it often.

Posted by: Eva at February 6, 2003 10:08 AM

Oh, i'm so confused...but, I was thinking about a post that I think you had here once? It was about the color crayon color INDIANRED that was renamed to be more politically correct. Was that you Fred? If so, the named color INDIANRED renders in the browser. So, who named these browser colors anyway.

If it wasn't you then you will not have a clue what I am talking about! Laughing and leaving...

Posted by: meg at February 6, 2003 11:45 AM

Meg, I don't know if you read it here or not, but I read the same piece. That and "flesh," which was pink. And there was another one that had been renamed because of referring to (or not) to an ethnic group. Fred, even if he didn't write about it, may still have a clue. Whaddaya say, Fred? Clue or not?

Posted by: travelertrish at February 6, 2003 02:38 PM

A glimpse into the inner workings of your mind never fail to leave me amused, bemused, and bewildered. Have a happy....

Posted by: anne at February 6, 2003 02:40 PM

The breath of my black labrador would seem to fit with the third defintion of "bated". I'm trying to get him to cut down on that particluar "alkaline solution" - we're taking it one day at a time!

Posted by: boynton at February 7, 2003 02:22 AM

Bated. As in "abated." Or "abatement." Holding back, waiting for something.

Posted by: Pascale Soleil at February 7, 2003 01:07 PM

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