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Git

Q From E Corvin; Gabriella McLeish in London: What is the origin of the word git that I read in a British book?

A Could that have been one of the Harry Potter books? It certainly appears in at least one of them. From before 1300 a get was what had been begotten, a child or offspring. But by about 1500 it had started to be used in Scotland and northern England in the sense of misbegotten, a bastard; from there it became a general term of abuse for a fool or idiot. By about 1700 get seems to have lapsed into slang or dialect, only to reappear in the wider language in the 1940s with a different spelling and lacking the associations with illegitimacy. James Joyce uses the older spelling (and meaning) in Ulysses in 1922: “The bloody thicklugged sons of whores’ gets!” These days, it’s a widely known and used term of abuse in Britain for somebody regarded as totally worthless or useless, most commonly appearing in cries of frustration such as “that stupid git, now look what he’s done!”.

Page created 23 Sep. 2000

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Last modified: 23 September 2000.