Skip to content

It’s all gone tits-up

April 30, 2017

Yesterday I went out for lunch up in the West End with my wife, to meet some old friends of hers whom she hadn’t seen for over 20 years – and whom I had never met. As we were walking up Shaftesbury Avenue, a propos of nothing Rochelle said to me that her favourite expression was “It’s all gone tits-up”. I agreed that this was indeed a very good expression. Well, when we met the friends in the restaurant, we all started introducing ourselves and catching up (“What have you been doing all this time etc etc”) and no more than five minutes after we’d met one of the friends said: “Yes, and I worked at that company for a few years, until it all went tits-up”.

What a pleasurable coincidence. But then I started to wonder what that expression actually means. Tits-up? It sort of sounds as if it means upside-down. But it doesn’t, because tits are normally up – I mean they’re on the upper half of the body. If you were upside-down it would be tits-down. To me, the word has always carried a suggestion of a drowned person floating forlornly in the water. But that can’t be right either, because drowned people are typically face-down (and therefore tits-down). Maybe it just invokes the idea of someone lying helplessly on their back? Possibly. But in that case, although the tits would indeed be uppermost, unless the person concerned had had some fairly massive silicone injections, the tits would not be standing upwards but flopping off to the sides. I mean, just saying. So all in all I don’t really think the expression makes very much sense. I do still like it, though.

P.S. May I bring to your attention my comic fantasy YA novel The Infinite Powers of Adam Gowers – here is the link: https://unbound.com/books/adam-gowers . Go there and you will see a neat little 2-minute video of me explaining why the time for this novel has come! And if you support it you will get your name in the back and an invitation to the launch party.

Advertisements

From → Uncategorized

7 Comments
  1. Simon Carter permalink

    Always assumed it was a variant of “belly up” to describe something “dead in the water”. To continue the theme why should “balls up” and “cock up” mean an error?

    • ‘Cock up’ and ‘balls up’. Complete guess here – could ‘cock up’ have something to do with cocks and hens where a cock is of much less value as it can’t lay eggs. ‘Balls up’ would then be a joke based on the double meaning of ‘cock’.

      ‘Cockney’ is also based on ‘cock’ (‘coken ey’) as in city folk who didn’t know that only hens can lay eggs.

  2. I agree with Simon. It’s a variant of “belly up” – a dead fish floating upside down at the surface.

  3. Simon Carter permalink

    To continue the cockney theme I’ve always been dubious about the supposed derivation of rhyming slang being some sort of secret code to discuss criminal activity. A secret code that rhymes hardly requires Bletchley levels of ingenuity to crack and so little of it is related to anything other than everyday items and activities. My guess is that it was just a playful way of speaking that amused people.
    Glaswegian rhyming slang can be tricky to understand; one example, Corn Beef = deaf which in Glasgow is pronounced “deef”. Similarly Burnt Cinder = window because in London window is (or was) prouncounced “winder”.

    • “My guess is that it was just a playful way of speaking that amused people.”

      I think this simple sentence explains far more of the entire fields of etymology and linguistics than most of the po-faced tomes looking into these things from an intellectual perspective.

  4. Simon Carter permalink

    Maybe all them Intellectuals is nothing more than a bunch of diabolical liberty takers.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: