"Brit" (OED: 1901)

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Mon Mar 30 00:01:46 UTC 2009

FWIW, "Brit" *still* feels new to me, as a component of AmE.


On 3/26/09, Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at gmail.com> wrote:
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      "Brit" (OED: 1901)
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> *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=85.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=85.Unfortunately for
> McGill, the wind had now gone down, but with any amount of dash they held
> the ball around the Brits' goal=85. 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 Di=F3sy _The New Far East_ (London: Cassell and Co.) 8:  A
> Japanese once said to me =93If your people call us =91Japs=92 we shall=94--=
>  he
> paused before gravely uttering the dire threat =97 " 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 sol=
> e
> 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
> sources.
> 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: B=
> oys,
> 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.
> JL
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