"Spit and Image"

Slate's Culture Blog
March 31 2011 4:41 PM

"Spit and Image"

In my "Completeist" article on Woody Allen (I've seenall of his movies, and have lived to tell the tale), I write in theintroductory paragraph that he has a tendency to recycle character types,including "the neurotic Jewish New Yorker (the filmmaker's spit and image)." Myuse of spit and image provoked a lotof comments. Here's one example from someone calling him/herself Inspyrd1:"SPIT AND IMAGE? C'mon, Juliet Lapidos. It's "SPITTING IMAGE." Tell your iPadto behave itself. And be advised that if you're going to opine, it's best toproofread. Thanks."

Well, thanks, but "be advised" that spit and image is perfectly correct! As this site explains , spit and image is actually the originalphrase, used since around 1825, and spittingimage is a later variant.

Advertisement

And here's The Straight Dope take on the origins ofspitting/spit and image:

The term "spittin' image" isa shortening of the original "spit and image," which means that youare both the stuff that your parents are made of (the spit) and you look likethem, too (the image). There are many folk etymologies (fanciful stories madeup to explain the usage), but this is the only one that has any basis in fact.Webster's says that one of the older uses dispenses with the image, as in"You are the very spit of your father," i.e., he might just have spityou out.

At this point, so many people say spitting image that either usage is acceptable . (I'm noprescriptivist.) But I prefer spit andimage because it makes more sense to me. What's a "spitting image," anyway?

I'll close with a plea to commenters, which I know will beignored: Before you correct something you see in an article, make absolutelysure that you're right, and the author's wrong. A simpleGoogle search will usually do the trick.

Follow  Brow Beat on Twitter . For more culture coverage, like  Slate  Culture  on Facebook.  

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Congress’ Public Shaming of the Secret Service Was Political Grandstanding at Its Best

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

A Plentiful, Renewable Resource That America Keeps Overlooking

Animal manure.

Politics

Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

The Ludicrous Claims Women Are Pitched at “Egg Freezing Parties”

Piper Kerman on Why She Dressed Like a Hitchcock Heroine for Her Prison Sentencing

Behold
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 AM An Up-Close Look at the U.S.–Mexico Border
  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 1 2014 12:20 PM Don’t Expect Hong Kong’s Protests to Spread to the Mainland
  Business
Business Insider
Oct. 1 2014 12:21 PM How One Entrepreneur Is Transforming Blood Testing
  Life
Outward
Oct. 1 2014 11:59 AM Ask a Homo: A Lesbian PDA FAQ
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 10:54 AM “I Need a Pair of Pants That Won’t Bore Me to Death” Troy Patterson talks about looking sharp, flat-top fades, and being Slate’s Gentleman Scholar.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 12:26 PM Where Do I Start With Leonard Cohen?
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 AM Watch a Crowd Go Wild When Steve Jobs Moves a Laptop in This 1999 Demonstration of WiFi
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 1 2014 12:01 PM Rocky Snow
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.