There are two relevant senses of the adjective. The first, a commonplace in British sport commentary, is more frequently expressed in the U.S. in the phrase physically fit. But the shorter form is creeping through, thanks in some measure to tennis players, announcers, and reporters, who are partial to it. Thus the New York Times last year quoted Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia, who had commented that Samantha Stosur “played like a man.” Asked to clarify, Cibulkova said, “As a player, she’s very fit. I’m not saying anything bad.”
A British reader of that quote may have had the impression that Cibulkova fancied Stosur, as the second British meaning of fit is “sexually attractive. The OED cites this 1985 exchange from The Observer: “Better ‘en that bird you blagged last night.’ ‘F—— off! She was fit.’”
I had never encountered a U.S. use of the second fit till this morning, when New York Times media correspondent David Carr sent this out over Twitter:
Now, it’s possible that Carr was merely imagining a United Parcel Service employee who regularly went to the gym. But where’s the fun in that?
17 thoughts on ““Fit””
My Yorkshire friend is fond of the expression “Fit as butcher’s dog, she is” when seeing an attractive woman.
I think your friend is a little confused?
That’s likely where the use of “fit” in this context comes from, what with allusions to glossy coats and all.
It was from a TV advert for Butcher’s Dog Food, the tag line for which has been used for many, many years.
Even more British – “well fit” – as in “she’s well fit”
@Peter – apparently not. The idiom “as fit as butcher’s dog” certainly exists, although normally (but not exclusively) with an “a”, and originates from Lancashire, according to Eric Partridge. It seems mainly to be used for physical fitness, as in this extract from the Chairman of the British Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights – “You could have a 75 year old as fit as butcher’s dog and a 50 year old who is virtually decrepit”
And here’s one from the Mirror – “Anfield (i.e. Liverpoool FC) defender says he’s feeling fit as a butcher’s dog these days”
And although Partridge, The Phrase Finder and Wiktionary only give the physically fit meaning, its use appears to be being extended to the sexually attractive meaning, as mentioned at The Urban Dictionary. Here’s another from the Mirror – “Saturdays singer Mollie King: “Fit as a butcher’s dog”, says boyf David Gandy”
And finally here’s a commenter at the Guardian – “Well, Balloffire, I have to give it to Murray that he has more “skills” than Dynamite – just his ability to woo his fit-as-butcher’s-dog lady friend is quite impressive.”
Thanks bajc11 for teaching me a new idiom.
Born, raised, and living here in Lancashire and that phrase is often heard and definitely has nothing to do with attractiveness. In fact, I think you might even get a strange look if you implied sexual attractiveness. To be honest, its use in ‘his fit-as-butcher’s-dog lady friend’ doesn’t sound right to my ear. Most of the time, you’d simply say ‘I’m feeling as fit as a butcher’s dog’ and only occasionally use it to refer to another person’s strength, implying they’ve been on a meat diet. I assume it’s one of those phrases that have been appropriated.
Now if somebody could just explain the word ‘mard’ (don’t know how it’s spelt but means ‘soft’, ‘wimpish’) which we use continually and I’ve never found in any dictionary…
I know the expression well and it always used to refer to physical fitness.
To say a girl is as ‘fit as a butcher’s dog’ is fairly new and not much of a compliment I think.
Also this from the Gloucester Citizen (2000), courtesy of OED: “I would choose Gillian Anderson from the X-Files, because she’s dead fit.”
I’m trying to remember how far back I used this term and it’s hard to say.
I’m pretty sure we used it, meaning attractive, especially ‘well fit’ as far back as school in the mid 80s.
Of course there was The Streets song, ‘shes fit, but don’t she know it’
I lived for a time in the UK in the 80’s and 90’s and picked up some slang that I love:
“To go pear-shaped” – (as in FUBAR)
“To put the boot in” (as in ridiculing someone or giving a hard time to him)
“To take the mickey out of” (take overseriousness out of people or things)
“Wally” (dumb person)
“Yob” (a stupid, uncouth person)
Can someone advise me whether these expressions are still in common use in the UK? I love them and use them here whenever I can. I think “yob” could catch on in the US because we have so many of them.
All in everyday use.
‘Taking the mickey’ also sometimes said as ‘extracting the Michael’.
‘Yob’ also ‘Yobbo’ and ‘Yobbish’.
“fit as a butcher’s dog” to describe sexiness is a punning simile; cf:
“you lie like a rug!”
“-Are you serious? – Serious as cancer!”
(From the southern US and) I understand David Carr’s words to mean a husband who is attractive and trim, suggesting that a pill to excite a woman would be neither needed nor desired if her husband were not overweight and less than handsome. The stereotype for a UPS guy is young and fit (trim) with an athletic build, maybe even a bit rugged.
I could be wrong, but I don’t think many Americans would read the word fit there to mean sexually attractive; the whole description would be understood that way, but because handsome and in shape together more or less equal sexually attractive.
Off topic once more, but I wanted to ask about some memorable Britishisms:
“Wanker” is in heavy use among American liberals to refer to fatuous, conservative punditry. My understanding from 40 years ago at school in the UK was that it meant masturbator.
“Chuffed”. I can never keep straight whether it means pleased or displeased.
“Sod”. To hell with, or a dirty old man?
“Roger” (her). My favorite slang word for copulation.
“Chuffed” means pleased – e.g. “well/right/dead chuffed with…” = “very pleased with …” (you wouldn’t normally say “very chuffed” though).
Sod – “sodomy” shortened, so used like ‘fuck’ etc to add emphasis or offense. “Sod off!” or “he’s a dirty old sod”
— the butcher’s dog thing (as I know it anyway) was that butcher’s dogs (supposedly) got all the meat off-cuts to eat and so were physically fitter due to a better diet. So saying someone’s as fit as a butchers dog implies they’re physically fit (might still be a bit of a minger though! 😉
You wouldn’t say someone was fit as a butcher’s dog to emphasis his/her attractiveness, you’d just say they were fit, although that may be where the expression originally comes from.
‘fit for purpose’ p.c. expression used by bureaucrats to rate someone’s credentials for holding a professional post. Not exactly a Britishism in the colloquial sense but part of a wave of government-speak which, sad to say, forms a maddeningly voluminous battery of linguistic horrors. to which I am inclined to want to retort: Balderdash with brass knobs on!
Raised, born, and living here in geographical area which phrase is commonly detected and positively has nothing to try and do with attractiveness. In fact, i believe you may even get an odd look if you understood sexual attractiveness. To be honest, its use in ‘his fit-as-butcher’s-dog girl friend’ does not make sense to my ear.
Most of the time, you’d merely say ‘I’m feeling as work as a butcher’s dog’ and solely often use it to sit down with another person’s strength, implying they have been on a meat diet. I assume it’s one in all those phrases that are seized.
Now if someone might simply make a case for the word ‘mard’ (don’t skills it’s Triticum spelta however suggests that ‘soft’, ‘wimpish’) that we have a tendency to use regularly and I\’ve ne\’er found in any dictionary…
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