Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Titter of the Day

Had I not gulped down the sip of my morning tea a split second earlier, I would have almost surely splattered it all over the breakfast table. As it is, the guffaw that bubbled up ferociously from within me almost choked me. And it all had to do with laying eyes on The News' op-ed page today and noticing the headline on columnist Anjum Niaz's piece.

The headline read:

"A titter a day"

My first reaction was that this was some unintended typo, with Ms. Niaz actually writing about that infernally ubiquitous Twitter phenomenon. But no, I soon realized she was in fact holding forth on all things giggly. She even, believe it or not, uses the phrase "teehee and titters." (Does anyone really go "teehee" any more?!)

Now, I'm no juvenile and I know that "titter" is a proper word in the English language, but surely there must be some rule in some style book that tells editors never to use it in a headline. I mean, how can you NOT think of something like this?


"America's Merriest Magazine"

And let's not even get into the phrase "a titter ran through the crowd"...

But this set me off thinking about all those legitimate words or phrases that have accrued slightly more, shall we say, salacious meanings or the edge of double entendre, and can no longer be used in their original meaning in an article or normal conversation without inviting a smirk, a snide comment or an outright belly laugh.

Here are some of the ones that I thought of immediately:

gay: adj. happy
e.g.: Kookooburra sits on an old gum tree, merry merry king of the bush is he, laugh kookooburra laugh, kookooburra gay your life must be...

chick: n. baby hen or duckling
e.g.: There were so many cute chicks up for sale at the market...

cock: n. rooster
e.g.: We took our cock out of the henhouse...

pussy: n. cat
e.g.: I think my pussy is hungry...

beaver: n. an amphibious rodent
e.g.: Did you see that beautiful-looking beaver?

ass: n. a donkey
e.g.: He is so cruel, he keeps whipping that ass...

seamen: pl. n. sailors
e.g.: The submarine was full of young seamen...

tart: n. pastry
e.g.: The tarts at Cafe Flo are really excellent...

dike / dyke: n. an embankment of earth or rock to prevent floods
e.g.: We saw lots of dikes in Holland...


finger: (slang) v. to inform on, point out for arrest
e.g.: The would-be bomber fingered his accomplices...


madam: n. a courteous form of address for a lady
e.g.: She was quite the madam of her household...



Please feel free to add your own. But do ensure they are valid words to begin with...

17 comments:

Bolshevik said...

Astaghfirullah! Al-haram al-haram!!!! XYZ what HAVE you been up to? :-D

Bolshevik said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bolshevik said...

Competition: 'Republicans turned off by size of Obama's package'

H Goat said...

As a copy-editor I had great fun writing headlines to do with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, e.g. "Village school attacked by MILF"

Anonymous said...

Joint: point of connection between two bones

Use: I wish I had more joints

Anonymous said...

High: elevated

Use: I am so f***ing high

Ali K. said...

fag - cigarettes

e.g.Lets go smoke some fags.

goraghora said...

what's so odd about using the word titter? is it the first syllable? fair point with the examples that follow, but the starting point is not a strong case in point. would you object to to the use of 'cock-up' in a headline? (if you would, surely the crime would be casualness, not impropriety) hmmm, pyala, it seems your breakfast tea is balanced a little too delicately...

Omar R Quraishi said...

hahahahaha

Nadir Hassan said...

Anyone remember the classic Images story about the passing of a cat, titled "My Pussy." Contained the classic line, "I miss stroking my pussy."

Anonymous said...

Gag :- A humorous anecdote or remark intended to provoke laughter

Use: He really does make the girls gag

XYZ said...

@Bolshevik: That is indeed some 'stiff' competition ;)

@Anon735: hmmmm, not really. You can still use joint quite blithely e.g. nose out of joint, or creaky joints.. what you can't prob use with a straight face is something like 'he had a nice joint'

@Anon741: Good one.

@Ali K.: Well, fag was always slang for cigarettes and people in the UK still use it.

@goraghora: Actually yes, I think 'cock-up' would be ridiculous in a heading, perhaps more out of inelegance than anything else. And I don't know, 'titter' just seems really quaint and funny in a heading. I may be wrong but I think I read somewhere that on porn shoots, the guy who preps the female actors prior to the shoot, is also called a titter.

@Nadir Hassan: I have heard about this story but it was not in Images and I don't think it was ever printed.

@Anon402: Sorry, that doesn't work. You've used the word as a verb in the sentence whereas your original is a noun.

Tazeen said...

nadir & xyz,

Of course that story was printed. We all know that a certain aunty wrote it and insisted on the title staying intact. It was published in the now dead (and never really alive) Sunday Magazine.

Anyone who walked the dark corridors of Dawn knows about it.

Nadir Hassan said...

XYZ: I saw a proof when I was at Dawn (this was many years ago). I always assumed it had been printed but I could be wrong.

Anonymous said...

hahahahaha

how about this people!

screw:

a thin pointed piece of metal like a nail with a raised spiral line (called a thread) along it and a line or cross cut into its head.

Use: 1) One of the screws is loose. 2)Now tighten all the screws.


@xyz n Bolshevik ... am i not in the competition now ? :)

Bolshevik said...

Anon-above: You're scary.

Anonymous said...

My Pussy Died Last Night


"My pussy had long, black silky hair. It used to love everyone."



Anyone, who has been remotely connected to journalism in Karachi knows the story by heart and still uses it as a dinner table annecdote which never fails to attract huge luaghter.