I have covered the use of BrE “bits” instead of the AmE “parts,” as in “the good bits,” “the naughty bits,” “lady bits,” “dangly bits,” etc. I’ve recently noticed another “bit” popular among journalists, as a synonym for a piece of work, traditionally and customarily shortened to a “piece.” David Carr of the New York Times is fond of it, and here it is from Michelle Dean on Twitter: The OED suggests that the use of bit by itself in this way derives from tit-bits or tidbits, referring to a number or series of small items. The dictionary gives these citations:
1896 Daily News 4 Nov. 2/7 This is a weekly journal called ‘Gems’. As its title suggests, the new paper will be of the ‘bits’ order.
1928 Granta 30 Nov. 172/1 If the editor of the Review were to ask me to write a little bit about Christmas I should laugh in his face.
The newfound popularity may stem from the fact that the flood of communications we are flooded with in this day and age, any one of them, no matter how long, starts to seem like a tidbit. Or, in fact a “bit”–in the sense of the tiny pieces of information by which computers operate. (The word, which dates from about 1947, was coined by J.W. Tukey as a combination of “binary digit.”)
But all that is a bit of a speculation. No pun intended.