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Pregnant camels and pregnant goldfish

May 5, 2013

I was thinking today, for some reason, about the words git and twit, two ancient playground insults which are seldom heard today. Both words are/were mild insults, not swearwords, with different connotations: a twit is just a silly person, whereas a git, though possibly silly, is also a bit nasty as well. Anyway, what really interests me about them is the ‘true’ meanings I remember being told in the playground, aged 9 or 10. A git, I was solemnly told, means ‘a pregnant camel’ while a twit is a pregnant goldfish.

I more or less believed this at the time; much later, I came to the conclusion that these meanings were simply made up by someone trying to be funny. Why would we need such specialised words? And why would there be an English word for a pregnant camel, which isn’t even an English animal? But thinking about it again, I am not so sure about git. Could this be a piece of army slang, coming from a time when British troops were stationed in North Africa? There are camels there, and it is at least possible that git means a pregnant one, in some Arab dialect. Back in the 70s, when the word was current, many children had dads who had done National Service or even fought in the war, so it’s quite plausible.

As for twit meaning ‘pregnant goldfish’, though, that’s not in the least plausible. Definitely someone trying to be funny. 

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One Comment
  1. Wiktionary gives the following, fairly predictably prosaic, etymology: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/git. I encountered pregnant goldfish at school – as the definition for “twat”, actually, not “twit”, which is even more clearly not true – but never encountered any pregnant camels.

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