Spitting Image, Spitten Image, Spit And Image, Dead Spit And Spitting Feathers

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Chinajan | 13:00 Sat 27th Feb 2021 | Phrases & Sayings
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No one seems to know which is the correct usage of 'spitting image' and its variations, nor its source. There's some information and speculation here:

While I was thinking about that I was reminded of the phrase 'spitting feathers' which I've always used to mean thirsty [Get the beer in - I'm spitting feathers] but which seems to have acquired a new meaning of angry or agitated.

What say you ABs?


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The term 'spitting image' is an allusion to someone who is so like someone else as to appear to have been spat from his mouth. The concept and phrase were in circulation by 1689, when George Farquhar used it in his play Love and a Bottle: “Poor child! He's as like his own dada as if he were spit out of his mouth.”
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Yes, as it says in my link.

Interesting to learn that the phrase is used in different languages too.
I think its the "spitting" thing I have known "spitting blood" for angry.
so if it was in use since 1689, surely we do know the etymology and correct usage?
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woof, yes you're right - I was sort of idly wondering how people use it now, and which version they use. I was reading a book written in the 1930s last night which used the phrase 'spit and image'. I suppose all the variations came about through misunderstanding of the original phrase.

More interesting [to me!] is how people understand 'spitting feathers' - like you say I think 'spitting blood' is more accurate for angry. Spitting feathers implies a very dry mouth.
I've only ever understood spitting feathers to mean angry.
'Spitting feathers' was always thirsty in our house, though when Mum came home from the mill it was cotton fibres and not feathers that made her so dry.
It's one of those phrases that does double duty.
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It just sounds 'wrong' to me when it's used to indicate anger. :D

In the same book I'm reading I've had to look up a phrase I'd not come across before - 'To pile Pelion on Ossa'. Every day's a school day.
Chinajan, I have heard it said as "split image" which also makes though one person has split into two identical ones. Its like "minefield" and "mindfield" both slightly different in meaning but both work in context....I guess that's how language evolves.
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Mindfield? I'm not having that! Said by the same people who live in a 'doggy dog world' with an 'escape goat' for 'all intensive purposes'?

but if you think about the context of having a whole field with cow poo, holes and so on as well as a safe way through does work in the context of something that is risky if you put a foot wrong
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Minefield yes - that's what it means but I've never come across mindfield. How does that work?
Feathers for thirst & blood for anger for me & I use the former more frequently.
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L-i-K that is the correct answer. :-D
Mamy, did you call your mam 'Mam' or 'Mum?
My memories of the mill workers were of shiny knuckle stumps where fingers had been lost in the machinery, and exaggerated mouthing which came from communicating over the racket. As for the men, they would tramp through the town centre with black faces and pit helmets, clogs too. How much if this is real memory and how much false memory? I don't know where I would have got false memories of coal-dusted faces unless I had seen them - I certainly didn't read 'trouble at t'mill' novels then or ever after.
Completely agree: feathers for thirsty, blood for anger.

But, words and phrases do change their meaning over time, often due to a lack of understanding of the original meaning, or because the original meaning just sounds wrong.

"Fulsome" is another example - people now use it to mean "full" for no other reason than it sounds like that's what it should mean.
Jim; don't get me started on the impoverishment of the English language! Disinterested, defuse, back (as in 'he did it off his own back'), for starters. I'm spitting too much claret to be able to formulate other examples.

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Spitting Image, Spitten Image, Spit And Image, Dead Spit And Spitting Feathers

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