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Tittle

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Tittle

Postby Dr. Goodword » Sat Aug 31, 2013 11:21 pm

• tittle •


Pronunciation: tid-êl • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A small jot, such as the dot of an "i", the cross on a "t", the tiny beard (cedilla) on "ç", or the tilde atop Spanish "ñ", as in cañón "canyon". 2. Something minute, incredibly tiny, smaller even than an iota; indeed, the dot on an iota (Greek short "i") is a tittle.

Notes: Interestingly enough, today's noun is unrelated to the verb (to) tittle, which was clipped from the rhyme compound tittle-tattle. Nor should it be confused with a titter "a suppressed giggle". Think of a tittle as the smallest thing or amount visible without a magnifying glass.

In Play: Today's Good Word originally referred to those itsy-bitsy appendages, diacritical marks, that are added to letters in some languages, "Red Herring almost failed French for consistently omitting the tittles on his written French." Although we classify today's word as a noun, it probably is used today more often as a quantifier, specifying how much, "When Lucinda dropped her ice cream cone on Harry Beard's head, he didn't move a tittle."

Word History: Today's word entered Middle English as titel, originally a variant of title, from Latin titulus "label, title, inscription". In 1607 Francis Beaumont wrote in his play, The Woman Hater, "I'll quote him to a tittle," meaning precisely, without omitting so much as a tittle. The same Latin word developed into Spanish tilde "accent, tilde". Somewhere over the years that followed, "to a tittle" was apparently confused with the phrase, "cross all your Ts (and dot your Is)", which also referred to exactitude. Ultimately, "to a tittle" was reduced to "to a T", which is how that odd expression wriggled its way into English. When we describe something to a T, we describe it absolutely exactly, down to the very last tittle.
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Re: Tittle

Postby Slava » Sat Aug 31, 2013 11:40 pm

Ah, yesterday was iota, today is tittle. I guess we're practicing small talk.
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Re: Tittle

Postby MTC » Sun Sep 01, 2013 5:04 am

Slava wrote:Ah, yesterday was iota, today is tittle. I guess we're practicing small talk.


Good! (If small)

Several more mites, motes, and minuscules like iota and tittle, and we will vanish.
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Re: Tittle

Postby DavidLJ » Sun Sep 01, 2013 5:43 am

Latin, eh?

Ya don't think maybe it might have had something to do with the Hebrew טיטל, pronounced "tittle," which in the Bible is translated as "tittle"?

-dlj.
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Re: Tittle

Postby MTC » Sun Sep 01, 2013 7:37 am

The usual smug sarcasm from David LJ.

Etymonline.com, however, follows Dr. Goodword's analysis:

tittle (n.) Look up tittle at Dictionary.com
late 14c., "small stroke or point in writing," representing Latin apex in Late Latin sense of "accent mark over a vowel," borrowed (perhaps by influence of Provençal titule "the dot over -i-") from Latin titulus "inscription, heading" (see title (n.)).

title (n.) Look up title at Dictionary.com
c.1300, "inscription, heading," from Old French title (12c.), and in part from Old English titul, both from Latin titulus "inscription, heading," of unknown origin. Meaning "name of a book, play, etc." first recorded mid-14c. The sense of "name showing a person's rank" is first attested 1580s.

As does Wiktionary:

From Medieval Latin titulus (“small stroke, diacritical mark, accent”), from Latin titulus (“title”).

And the Etyman blog:

The word tittle has a much more interesting history. It looks very similar to title and that’s no accident. The Latin titulus was used to describe an inscription placed above or below something, such as a placard in a theater. Then, in the 14th century, it began to be used more specifically to refer to a small stroke in writing, such as the dot over an i. The Latin for such a stroke was apex, which meant “point or stroke” but when John Wycliffe created the Wycliffe Bible [4], he translated apex as tittle, obviously influenced by the fact that tittle was already being used to describe something “placed above.”

wycliffe bible
Wycliffe’s Bible
Eventually this took on the extended meaning of a small or miniscule amount, and modern biblical translations opt for dropping the jot and tittle to replace them with “letters and pens”

(http://etyman.wordpress.com/2012/07/05/ ... %AC%C9%AB/)

Perhaps David LJ has a rebuttal for these corroborating authorities, but more likely he will retreat into the shadows like a spider, waiting for the next chance to bite.
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Re: Tittle

Postby dougsmit » Sun Sep 01, 2013 7:43 am

"Somewhere over the years that followed, "to a tittle" was apparently confused with the phrase, "cross all your Ts (and dot your Is)," which also referred to exactitude."

Are you telling me now that "exactitude" allows you to omit the apostrophe in forming plurals of single letters? T's and I's need their tittles, too.
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Re: Tittle

Postby LukeJavan8 » Sun Sep 01, 2013 1:06 pm

Students I taught dropped the apostrophe all the time,
and their grades dropped correspondingly.
-----please, draw me a sheep-----
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Re: Tittle

Postby Perry Lassiter » Sun Sep 01, 2013 1:10 pm

Give David at least a modicum of credit for being able to write in Hebrew font herein.

In Hebrew, some letters have "shoulders," others do not. Thus, the letter for our R, resh, is across around and down. D, however, requires a shoulder projecting out a tad, before backing up and heading down. Those shoulders, too, may be called tittles. Translation difficulties can come from handwriting as sloppy as mine, especially when R and D both make sense.

And some readers may not have discovered that many pad keyboards display those tittles if one holds the letter down a bit. You can then slide your finger over to the one you want. Try it.
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Re: Tittle

Postby Slava » Sun Sep 01, 2013 1:48 pm

dougsmit wrote:Are you telling me now that "exactitude" allows you to omit the apostrophe in forming plurals of single letters? T's and I's need their tittles, too.

Yes and no. Perdue doesn't agree with you:
Apostrophes are used to form plurals of letters that appear in lowercase; here the rule appears to be more typographical than grammatical, e.g. "three ps" versus "three p's." To form the plural of a lowercase letter, place 's after the letter. There is no need for apostrophes indicating a plural on capitalized letters, numbers, and symbols (though keep in mind that some editors, teachers, and professors still prefer them).

I would argue that it is sometimes advisable to use one for capital letters. Though context should make to meaning clear, Ms could be taken to be an abbreviation, for example.
Nor does the Apostrophe Protection Society:
Apostrophes are NEVER ever used to denote plurals!

Many people write I had four A’s in my exam or mind your p’s and q’s. We would say that the apostrophe is meaningless in these cases. I had four As and I will mind my ps and qs is perfectly clear and could hardly be misunderstood and no apostrophes have been misused.
The rule is a bit overly strict, and the examples they use are of words, not single letters. The second bit addresses our point of contention here.

My tittle of a quibble with the Doc here is that no one I know ever dots an I. An i, yes, but not the capital. :D
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Re: Tittle

Postby Philip Hudson » Sun Sep 01, 2013 5:46 pm

The foregoing is a lot of big talk for such a small tittle.
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Re: Tittle

Postby Slava » Sun Sep 01, 2013 6:07 pm

Philip Hudson wrote:The foregoing is a lot of big talk for such a small tittle.


Query: if there is such a thing as a small tittle, can we have medium/average and large/big ones, too? :wink:
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Re: Tittle

Postby Philip Hudson » Sun Sep 01, 2013 6:39 pm

Slava: A query fit for a sage - if only we had one on the Agora.
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Re: Tittle

Postby DavidLJ » Sun Sep 01, 2013 7:39 pm

If MTC can distract himself from his concern with my personal qualities, perhaps he'd like to consider that "tittle" occurs only in one place in English usage, in the "jot and tittle" of the Bible.

Both are obviously of Hebrew and/or Aramaic provenance: yod and titl.

-dlj.
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Re: Tittle

Postby Philip Hudson » Sun Sep 01, 2013 8:20 pm

Forget making molehills into mountains. We are making jots and tittles into behemoths, to invoke an Hebrew word, on this forum.
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Re: Tittle

Postby Slava » Sun Sep 01, 2013 9:05 pm

You have given us your ideas on iota and tittle:
DavidLJ wrote:Both are obviously of Hebrew and/or Aramaic provenance: yod and titl.
-dlj.

Now, would you kindly tell us why no professionals, at least those who are on the Internet, agree with you? Quoting recognized, authoritative sources would greatly improve your claims. I encourage you to attempt to prove your case.
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