In a word: git

March 07, 2013|By John E. McIntyre | The Baltimore Sun

Each week The Sun's John McIntyre presents a relatively obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar, another brick to add to the wall of your working vocabulary. This week's word:


No, not the rural American imperative of get, but the British slang for "a worthless person."

The etymology is interesting; the word derives from the old word get, "offspring." When you beget, your get is what you get, your begotten.

Git is, for those fond of British slang (and who isn't?), particularly satisfying in the mouth. The hard initial consonant, followed by the short vowel, bitten off with the concluding hard consonant, allows a great deal of contempt to be packed into a monosyllable.

Put to use, it is particularly effective as the terminal word following a series of polysyllabic or compound adjectives, as in one of the examples from the Listener of 1967 given in the Oxford English Dictionary: "That bald-headed, moon-faced, four-eyed git Garnett gristling on about Harold Wilson." 

(Oddly, gristling, though cited in the OED, has not made it into the OED  as an entry, and does not readily turn up in Google searches. My sense of it from context is that it indicates grumbling on to no particular purpose, as a man chewing away at a piece of gristle, but I am no lexicographer. Oxford, please note.)

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