"Brit" (OED: 1901)

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Thu Mar 26 16:17:53 UTC 2009

*1886* _Outing_ IX (Dec.) 280: The McGill University Team, of Montreal, on
October 16 commenced its season with a match against the Britannias on the
cricket grounds, before a large number of spectators….After quite a
struggle, the ball was forced down towards the McGill goal, and Blaiklock,
by a splendid flying kick, scored a goal for the Brits….Unfortunately for
McGill, the wind had now gone down, but with any amount of dash they held
the ball around the Brits' goal…. The game now stood 11 to 8, but McGill
began playing rather loose, and allowed the Brits to secure two rouges, and
a touch down.

*1898* Arthur Diósy _The New Far East_ (London: Cassell and Co.) 8:  A
Japanese once said to me “If your people call us ‘Japs’ we shall”-- he
paused before gravely uttering the dire threat — " we shall have to call you
'Brits'!" It is to be feared that even this menace may not deter Britons
from using a term in which they can see no harm.* *
Whippersnappers of post-1980 vintage will find it hard to believe that
"Brit" was not in everyday use in the U.S. till about 25 years ago.
(The more dismissive and slangier "Limey" preceeded it.)
NewspaperArchive.com and Google Books reveal only a handful of exx. before
the 1970s, and show that the word was uncommon - even in headlines. The sole
exception was the use of "Brit" in Canadian papers to refer to the
"Britannias," as above; the _Winnipeg Free Press_ did it regularly (cf. the
New York "Yanks.")

British historians used the word in the 19th C. to designate the British
Celtic tribes, but that usage seems mostly to have died out.

I did not find a single "Brit" in my extensive reading of U.S. WWI and WWII

Weird, huh?

A notable early U.S. exx.:

*1920* Thomas Williams Bicknell  *The History of the State of Rhode Island
and Providence Plantations*  (N.Y.: American Historical Society) III 928: Boys,
see here, we've got a job to whip them Brits. I'm goin' for a lick at 'em.
Corn and 'taters will grow while we are gone and the gals can take care of
the critters and garden sarss. Let's all jine the Rangers and show our
Yankee stuff.


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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