Spitting image

Posted by ESC on September 04, 2001

In Reply to: Spitting image posted by STEVEN SMITH on September 02, 2001

: I believe the true origin of the phrase to be from a black smith's vocabulary. A sand pit in which a mold has been set and then hot iron poured into is called a spit. And the item that was molded was the spitting image of the original.

That's a new theory. From a previous discussion:

"SPITTING IMAGE. There is far from complete agreement among students of language as to whether the 'spit' in this expression comes from the same root (Anglo-Saxon 'spittan') as the common word meaning 'to eject from mouth.' One authority, claiming that the phrase means 'speaking likeness,' quotes a source dating back to 1602 to support his claim that the two words are the same. However, one of our early collaborators on reference books, Harold Wentworth, suggests in his 'American Dialect Dictionary' a different source. He notes that the phrase 'He's the very spit of his father' is widely heard in the South and suggests that 'spit' in this sense is probably derived from 'spirit.' Nothing that the letter 'r' is often indistinct in Southern speech, he suggests that the phrase may actually have started as 'He's the very spirit and image of his father.'" From Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins by William and Mary Morris (HarperCollins, New York, 1988).