itsy, bitsy, ditsy...

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Sun Oct 9 02:52:57 UTC 2005

Well, it could be merely a dialect split. When I hear "ditsy," I think
"someone who is, in perhaps some trivial way, "not right bright," who
is, in some way, somewhat stupid.

Have you seen the commercial for something or other in which a blond
chick asks a couple of guys whether they remember her name? The guys
run through a random list of names till she says, "That's right! You
do remember my name!" Yet, unless one is following the list of names
closely, it's not really clear as to which of the names is hers and
anyone who wasn't an utter idiot would realize that the guys neither
know nor care what this ditsy broad's name is. Is the point that we
should laugh at this mentally-defective woman or that we should cry
for her?
 IAC, there's nothing like that in "dicty" for me.

-Wilson Gray

On 10/7/05, Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at> wrote:
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM>
> Subject:      Re: itsy, bitsy, ditsy...
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> I agree.  These definitions are apparently erroneous. The very atypical 1981 N.Y. Times ex., however, does seem to mean "small or dainty," consonant with the "ditsy print."
> It seems to me that "eccentric; 'goofy' " is a good fit for all the others.
> JL
> Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender: American Dialect Society
> Poster: Benjamin Zimmer
> Subject: Re: itsy, bitsy, ditsy...
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Thu, 6 Oct 2005 10:41:13 -0400, Wilson Gray wrote:
> >There's a dialect of English in which "ditzy" means the same thing as
> >"dicty"? As my parents and my grandparents would say, "Well, I'll be
> >John Brown!" One never knows, do one?
> Though OED2 equates the first sense of "ditsy" with "dicty", I wonder if
> that really fits the citational evidence...
> -----
> ditsy, a.
> a. = DICTY a. a, b. Also, fussy, intricate.
> 1978 Detroit Free Press 5 Mar. (Spring Fashion Suppl.) 23/1 Forget about
> delicate chains, a ring on every finger, clanking bangles and ditsy
> earrings. 1979 OBERMAN & STECKLER I could have been Contender ii. 8 A
> ditsy manicurist who's crazy about cats and lives alone. 1981 N.Y. Times 3
> Dec. C8/5 They'll cook and clean for a week before a party and worry over
> the ditsy little touches, the table, the flowers, the matching guest
> towels. 1985 Ibid. 29 Jan. C13/3 She also has a big repertory of comic
> voices, ranging from..a maternal croon to a ditsy English matron's
> stiff-upper-register.
> -----
> Except for that last cite, I don't quite see how these match either the
> 'conceited' or 'elegant' senses of "dicty". The general sense here is
> 'exceedingly dainty or trifling'. I suppose it's possible that "dicty"
> played some role in the formation of "ditsy", but the two words just don't
> appear to be synonymous in the cites given. I'm sure the new OED entry
> will be more on the mark.
> Beyond "dicty", there's a whole array of frivolous "d---y" adjectives that
> "ditsy" evokes: "dainty", "dinky", "dippy", "daffy", "dizzy", "dotty"...
> Was this one of Bolinger's phonesthemes?
> --Ben Zimmer
> ---------------------------------
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-Wilson Gray

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