Project 06: "Fit"

The word "fit" has been around since Old English (and probably before then, too, but this is an English language class). To the right, I've listed a sampling of the OED definitions for "fit" in various parts of speech. 

Since there are so many different uses of the word and my time, unfortunately, is limited, I decided to focus on a few fun phrases involving "fit" as well as a few other samplings of corpus data related to my searches.

Noun uses

In a fit of         .
This use of "fit" probably comes from a now-obsolete usage that referred to "fits" as insanity. A fit would 'seize' someone, and they'd lose control, convulse, etc. Here are some of the results of corpus searches with this phrase.

In a fit of        . Simply a list of all the things you can have a fit of. Some of my favorites are pique, jealousy, delirium, and frustration.

1950s-2000 compared to 1800s Here I looked at "in a fit of      " in two time periods to compare what people used to fill in the blank. I personally really liked the older words (on the right of the search results). You never seem to hear about a "fit of desperation" or a "fit of hysterics" or a fit of musing" anymore, and what a shame that is!

Similar and related phrases:
By fits and starts - to use the OED's definition, this means to do something "spasmodically" (which is really a great word, don't you think?).

Temper tantrums: All the ways to say someone threw a fit. (Also in there are things like "to be a fit," as in a match to something, or the fitting of clothes.)

Adjective Uses
Fit to be tied, seen, and all such phrases. This one reminds me of Foghorn Leghorn, but maybe that's just because I listened to too much of the Looney Tunes Christmas CD when I was a kid. He makes a joke about "Well, you'll be fit to be tied... Get it? You'll... Tied... .Yule Tide?" Lame jokes aside, I thought this was a dying phrase, but the corpus proved me wrong. Go figure.

fit.[j*] and       . There are many phrases to say someone's healthy. But when was the last time some answered, "I'm healthy, thanks" when you asked how they're doing? You're more likely to hear fit and well, fit as a fiddle (which, by the way, led me to the fun expression of "fiddling while Rome burns"), fit and trim, and so forth. Here are some other things you can be "fit as."

"All the news that's fit to print." Coined in 1897, this phrase has been the New York Times' motto for many, many years, and is a great example of a particular adjectival use of "fit." It's not "athletic" news, it's not "form-hugging clothing" news, it's not "puzzle piece" news; it's "proper, respectable, and agreeable to decorum" news. Here are some other "fit to [v*]" expressions.

Verb Uses
Fitting in
Things and ways you can "fit in" (not into). I thought it was interesting to see how you can "fit someone in" for your schedule, a phrase that seemed to spike in the 1960s and then die off. I thought it would have been a more recent usage, but once again I was proven wrong.
What do we fit in with, though? Here is a list of nouns that frequently occurred with the phrase "fit in with." Also interesting is a historical comparison of what we want to fit in with.

OED Definitions
  • A sudden seizure of any malady attended with loss of consciousness and power of motion, or with convulsions, as fainting, hysteria, apoplexy, paralysis, or epilepsy. (late 18th C)
  • Often in phr. by fits (and starts) : by irregular impulses or periods of action, at varying intervals, fitfully, spasmodically
  • A capricious impulse, humour, mood.
  • A violent access or outburst of laughter, tears, rage, etc.
  • A fitting or adaptation of one thing to another, esp. the adjustment of dress to the body; the style or manner in which something is made to fit.

  • Well adapted or suited to the conditions or circumstances of the case, answering the purpose, proper or appropriate.
  • Befitting the person or the circumstances, agreeable to decorum, becoming, convenient, proper, right.
  • Inclined, disposed. In stronger sense: Angry or troubled enough to (do something desperate or violent); exhausted enough, ‘ready’ to (sink to the ground, etc.). Also, fit to be tied (slang), extremely angry, hopping mad.
  • In Horse Racing or Athletics: In good ‘form’ or condition; hence colloq. in good health, perfectly well. fit as a fiddle

  • To be of the right measure or proper shape and size for; to be correctly shaped or adjusted to. Said esp. of dress.
  • To be of such size and shape as to fill exactly a given space, or conform properly to the contour of its receptacle or counterpart; to be adjusted or adjustable to a certain position. Often with in (adv. and prep.), into, in with.
  • To supply, furnish, or provide with what is fit, suitable, convenient, or necessary.