Contemporary slang bites the big one

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Sun May 14 02:00:12 UTC 2006

In other words, Ben, your reaction to "Contemporary slang bites the big one"
was only trivially distinct from my reaction to, "Our main computer bit the
big one": "Huh?"


On 5/13/06, Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: Contemporary slang bites the big one
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> 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
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