Contemporary slang bites the big one

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Sat May 13 21:39:23 UTC 2006

On 5/13/06, Wilson Gray <hwgray at> wrote:
> Then I thought, "Hold the phone! Let's see what HDAS says." Well, HDAS's
> earliest cite is from only 1977, giving plenty of time for various shifts from the
> military meaning. But, even that cite pretty much still coincides with the
> military meaning. Nevertheless, even HDAS has only a single example of
> this phrase used in the past and, even there, it has the meaning of "died,"
> with a date of 1988.

There's also a cite from 1985 (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, "You
don't suppose he bit the big one, do you?"). "Bite the big one" =
'die' is completely unremarkable slang for me (grew up in NJ, 70s-80s)
-- in fact, when I first saw the subject line, I wondered, "Why does
Wilson think contemporary slang is dead?"

Then there's "bite it" = 'die', which HDAS dates back to the Vietnam
era. And also lists "bite the biscuit", though that
one's unfamiliar to me. All no doubt descended from "bite the dust".

--Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

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