Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Tue Apr 16 13:13:11 UTC 2002

At 11:35 PM -0400 4/15/02, James McIntosh wrote:
>At 09:04 PM 4/15/02 -0400, you wrote:
>  "the spit and image of" [sic] ...
>This is an incorrect spelling of:
>"the spirit and image of"
>Jim McIntosh

No, actually that's a folk etymology (or more strictly an
etymythology), as I argued a couple of ADS meetings ago.  At some
point (this summer, hopefully) my paper will be submitted to
_American Speech_, but in the meantime I will just note that there's
no evidence for this derivation (or in general for "spirit" to be
rendered as "spit" by "an incorrect spelling") and a good deal of
counterevidence.  My paper makes the case (not original with me) for
a derivation from "spitten image", involving a variant of the past
participle, and draws on cross-linguistic and well as earlier English
analogues.  I also argue that the "spit" in question is a euphemistic
replacement for a different bodily fluid that bears a more direct
evidentiary connection with genetic transmission, which is what the
expression alludes to.


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