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  #1  
Old 10-22-2008, 09:47 PM
DSYoungEsq DSYoungEsq is offline
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Origin of "tough titties"

Anyone know what the origin is for the phrase of "tough titties," meaning someone will be out of luck?
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  #2  
Old 10-22-2008, 10:09 PM
Squink Squink is offline
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No origin, but alternates on the complete phrase:

Tough titties said the kitty, but the milk's still good!
or
Tough titties said the kitty, when the cow went meow.
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  #3  
Old 10-22-2008, 10:21 PM
samclem samclem is offline
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1920s or earlier. That's all I got for now.
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Old 10-22-2008, 10:35 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Squink View Post
No origin, but alternates on the complete phrase:

Tough titties said the kitty, but the milk's still good!
or
Tough titties said the kitty, when the cow went meow.
I've never heard tough titties used in a phrase. Where and when did you hear these?
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  #5  
Old 10-22-2008, 10:39 PM
Squink Squink is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase View Post
Where and when did you hear these?
Midwest US, 60's through now.
It also seems to be used in the UK.
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  #6  
Old 10-22-2008, 10:58 PM
Santo Rugger Santo Rugger is offline
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If the breast isn't supple, is it hard (or impossible) to get milk from?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase View Post
I've never heard tough titties used in a phrase. Where and when did you hear these?
Elementary school.
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  #7  
Old 10-22-2008, 11:00 PM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase View Post
I've never heard tough titties used in a phrase. Where and when did you hear these?
SoCal, '80s: '"Tough titty," said the kitty when the milk ran dry.'
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  #8  
Old 10-22-2008, 11:32 PM
Princhester Princhester is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by samclem View Post
1920s or earlier. That's all I got for now.
So it's a 1920's style tough phrase?
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  #9  
Old 10-23-2008, 01:54 AM
outlierrn outlierrn is offline
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Tough tittie said the kitty, but the milks ok. HS, maybe Jr. high
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  #10  
Old 10-23-2008, 02:23 AM
dbuzman dbuzman is offline
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The one I always heard was "tough titty said the kitty and the milk tastes shitty."
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  #11  
Old 10-23-2008, 05:25 AM
Harmonious Discord Harmonious Discord is offline
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Tough titty said the kitty when the cow went dry.
Tough titty said the calf when the cow went dry.

There are many variations and it goes way back further than the 60's. I learned it from my mother's farm family. I'm not sure what the original source would have been. Like many things it may not have a printed source and just spread via the school yard and all the different rhymes our active minds could think up.

Last edited by Harmonious Discord; 10-23-2008 at 05:26 AM..
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  #12  
Old 10-23-2008, 05:52 AM
Colophon Colophon is offline
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I always heard it as "tough titty", not titties.

Time to turn to my old favourite reference book, Cassell's Dictionary of Slang:
Quote:
tough/hard titty/titties/tits n. [1950s+] bad luck; thus tough tits, toots, a phr. of dismissal (cf BAD BONGOS). [Standard English tough/hard + TITTY n2]
(where "titty" has the meaning you'd expect - for some reason sense 1 is "milk")

Interestingly, it also lists "tough takkie" as a South African phrase dating to the 1910s, which although it sounds similar, uses the word for a canvas sneaker/plimsoll.
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  #13  
Old 10-23-2008, 06:14 AM
samclem samclem is offline
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Using Google Books, with the caution that dates are not always reliable, I think that my link is from 1921. I don't have time to search inside the book this morning.

http://books.google.com/books?lr=&as...h+titty&pgis=1

Unfortunately, Jon Lighter's third(and fourth?) volume of Historical Dictionary of American Slang is still in preparation. If it were published, it would pretty well answer the question.
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  #14  
Old 10-23-2008, 07:12 AM
Harmonious Discord Harmonious Discord is offline
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Here's interesting stuff I ran across, but doesn't have the phrase tough titty.

There are a number of old texts that speak of easy times in the past with reference to titty mama, titty bottle, or titty. Some of the same texts then mentioned the times are tough. There was also mention of after time they were tough as leather and they were speaking of titty. Scottish and English plays and stories seem to have the majority of reference to titty.

There is also a nursery story with Titty mouse and Tatty mouse, but Titty died, and then Tatty with every thing around. Is this related to tit for tat?

I'm done with my search for titty as there is too much on the subject in these old texts.
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  #15  
Old 10-23-2008, 08:28 AM
Dr. Drake Dr. Drake is online now
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Technically, this type of phrase ("X," said Y, as something-or-other) is known as a "wellerism." Another is: "I see," said the blind man, as he picked up his hammer and saw.
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  #16  
Old 10-23-2008, 08:38 AM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is online now
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I first heard it as "tough titty" in the late 1970s in W. Penna., when I was in high school. Not much since then.
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  #17  
Old 10-23-2008, 08:39 AM
Soggy Biscuit Soggy Biscuit is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny L.A. View Post
SoCal, '80s: '"Tough titty," said the kitty when the milk ran dry.'
That's the version I heard in Oklahoma in the 1960s, from a woman who was in her late 50s.
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  #18  
Old 10-23-2008, 09:11 AM
Gary T Gary T is offline
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It appears to me that alliteration is part its formation (cf. "bad bongos" & "tough takkie" mentioned above). It may be that "titty/titties" has less to do with teats than with the letter "T."
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  #19  
Old 10-23-2008, 10:05 AM
Polycarp Polycarp is offline
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Valkyries, with reference to those chain-mail bras?
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  #20  
Old 10-23-2008, 10:15 AM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is offline
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Quote:
It appears to me that alliteration is part its formation (cf. "bad bongos" & "tough takkie" mentioned above). It may be that "titty/titties" has less to do with teats than with the letter "T."
I agree. The basic sense is just "tough". Adding a second word can reinforce that, especially if it's a verboten word in polite society, and alliteration or rhyming words always seem to fit better.
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  #21  
Old 10-23-2008, 11:37 AM
Gary T Gary T is offline
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I've just recalled that when I was a kid, we'd say "tough toenails."
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  #22  
Old 10-23-2008, 11:50 AM
Thudlow Boink Thudlow Boink is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary T View Post
It appears to me that alliteration is part its formation (cf. "bad bongos" & "tough takkie" mentioned above). It may be that "titty/titties" has less to do with teats than with the letter "T."
I think so too. I have heard numerous variations of the "Tough ______" saying, including "tough luck," "tough shit," "tough toenails," "tough tootsies," and (as my high school German teacher used to say) "tough schade."
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  #23  
Old 10-24-2008, 06:10 AM
DSYoungEsq DSYoungEsq is offline
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Any further input? I find it instructive that the phrase was used on playgrounds (that's where I remember using it as a young lad). Trying to get a handle on the actual origin, though...
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  #24  
Old 10-24-2008, 12:30 PM
The Great Sun Jester The Great Sun Jester is offline
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Gitcher minds outta the gutter, kids.

Tit = very small thing (see also tit-men, titmouse, etc.) “Titty” is a diminutive of an already small thing. “Tough Titty” as a phrase is a sarcastic admonition to dismiss a very small, but irritatingly present, detail.

“That’s ok. Your snarky quip about my mother in no way affects my ability to pilot the freight ship through these waters.”

“Well that would be a tough titty if it did!”
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  #25  
Old 10-24-2008, 05:08 PM
DSYoungEsq DSYoungEsq is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Inigo Montoya View Post
Gitcher minds outta the gutter, kids.

Tit = very small thing (see also tit-men, titmouse, etc.) “Titty” is a diminutive of an already small thing. “Tough Titty” as a phrase is a sarcastic admonition to dismiss a very small, but irritatingly present, detail.

“That’s ok. Your snarky quip about my mother in no way affects my ability to pilot the freight ship through these waters.”

“Well that would be a tough titty if it did!”
Cite?


Given that tit meaning mammary gland (from teat, from ME tete, etc.), used diminuitively as "titties" is quite a common word, and given that the nursery rhyme that appears to be associated with the phrase talks about dry mammary glands, your posited meaning appears unlikely.
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  #26  
Old 10-24-2008, 05:20 PM
ouryL ouryL is offline
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Probably the same as the tee in teetotaler.
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  #27  
Old 10-24-2008, 06:56 PM
Daithi Lacha Daithi Lacha is offline
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Tough noogies! That was our socially acceptable version in middle school in the late 70's, IIRC.
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  #28  
Old 10-24-2008, 07:52 PM
samclem samclem is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DSYoungEsq View Post
Any further input? I find it instructive that the phrase was used on playgrounds (that's where I remember using it as a young lad). Trying to get a handle on the actual origin, though...
Since the phrase seems to have been used as early as 1921, I'm not sure the playground is the source. I think Army slang, perhaps British, perhaps US.
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  #29  
Old 10-24-2008, 10:37 PM
Debon Err Debon Err is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DSYoungEsq View Post
Cite?


Given that tit meaning mammary gland (from teat, from ME tete, etc.), used diminuitively as "titties" is quite a common word, and given that the nursery rhyme that appears to be associated with the phrase talks about dry mammary glands, your posited meaning appears unlikely.
You question Inigo Montoya? He cannot reveal his sources. And he's a genius, so I'd give him more credit than that.
Clearly the phrase is a sarcastic play on words referring to small breasts.
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  #30  
Old 10-25-2008, 09:14 AM
DSYoungEsq DSYoungEsq is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by samclem View Post
Since the phrase seems to have been used as early as 1921, I'm not sure the playground is the source. I think Army slang, perhaps British, perhaps US.
What about the possibility that the phrase originates on the farm? After all, the concept of difficulty getting milk out of a given cow isn't something unknown in the farm setting?

I was only referencing the playground to dismiss the notion that the word "titties" here is a reference to human female mammary glands; such references are rarely allowed to propagate in schoolyards.
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  #31  
Old 10-25-2008, 09:58 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DSYoungEsq View Post
I was only referencing the playground to dismiss the notion that the word "titties" here is a reference to human female mammary glands; such references are rarely allowed to propagate in schoolyards.
Really? I thought such phrases mainly propagated on the schoolyard; most people say stuff like titties mainly as schoolchildren in my experience!
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  #32  
Old 10-25-2008, 10:34 AM
Rick Rick is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr. Drake View Post
Technically, this type of phrase ("X," said Y, as something-or-other) is known as a "wellerism." Another is: "I see," said the blind man, as he picked up his hammer and saw.
I see said the blind man, to his wife who could not hear.
It all comes back to me now, as I spit into the wind.
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  #33  
Old 10-25-2008, 10:40 AM
Polycarp Polycarp is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ouryL View Post
Probably the same as the tee in teetotaler.
Probably a folk etymology, but I was given to understand that this was originally "tea", the meaning being that abstinence from alcohol meant that one's only "drink" was tea.
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  #34  
Old 10-25-2008, 11:09 AM
pkbites pkbites is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase View Post
I've never heard tough titties used in a phrase. Where and when did you hear these?
I heard it from my Dad, way back in the mid-60's. I'm certain he heard growing up during the depression in the 30's.

"Tough titty said the kitty, but he kept right on eating" is what he used to say.
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  #35  
Old 10-25-2008, 11:15 AM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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Looking at locations of those who answered, it seems like most of those who heard a phrase were in the midwest or west while most who just heard tough t____ of whatever variety were in the east. Not unanimous, but most.

I don't think the Dictionary of American Regional English has put out its T volume yet. This might be a topic they cover.
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  #36  
Old 10-25-2008, 06:56 PM
DSYoungEsq DSYoungEsq is offline
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Originally Posted by kayT View Post
Really? I thought such phrases mainly propagated on the schoolyard; most people say stuff like titties mainly as schoolchildren in my experience!
My point was, if "titties" as used on the school ground was really meaning "tits" "boobs" "breasts of human women", it would be supressed on the school playground, similar to the way that words like "pussy", "cock" and "bitch" are. Whatever else you may hear there, you generally don't hear those words a heck of a lot at school (not at decent schools, anyway).
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  #37  
Old 10-25-2008, 07:32 PM
Thudlow Boink Thudlow Boink is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DSYoungEsq View Post
My point was, if "titties" as used on the school ground was really meaning "tits" "boobs" "breasts of human women", it would be supressed on the school playground, similar to the way that words like "pussy", "cock" and "bitch" are. Whatever else you may hear there, you generally don't hear those words a heck of a lot at school (not at decent schools, anyway).
"We run a decent school, here, Mrs. Johnson. The children do not say 'pussy,' 'cock,' or 'bitch' on our playground."
"What about 'titties'? Do they say 'tittes'?"
"Well, yes. But they're not referring to human titties."
"So they're... animal titties?"
"Animal tittes. Yes."
(Little kid comes running up) "Um, um, teacher? My bitch had puppies last night, and my neighbor's pussy is going to have kittens. Can I bring them in for show and tell?"
"I don't see why not, Billy. Jimmy raises chickens, and he's going to show the class his cock, and maybe a hen or two."
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  #38  
Old 10-25-2008, 07:57 PM
DSYoungEsq DSYoungEsq is offline
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Yes, the other words can be used in non-sexual senses, but it's quite obvious when they are being "properly" used. The point is to question whether the use of "titties" in the phrase I've offered is really a reference to human female mammary glands, or a reference to animal mammary glands, or not a reference to anything particular at all. Please don't be unnecessarily obtuse about it.
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  #39  
Old 10-25-2008, 08:13 PM
Thudlow Boink Thudlow Boink is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DSYoungEsq View Post
Please don't be unnecessarily obtuse about it.
But it's fun!

Seriously, though, I vote for "not a reference to anything particular at all."
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  #40  
Old 10-25-2008, 08:45 PM
Rhubarb Rhubarb is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr. Drake View Post
Technically, this type of phrase ("X," said Y, as something-or-other) is known as a "wellerism." Another is: "I see," said the blind man, as he picked up his hammer and saw.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick View Post
I see said the blind man, to his wife who could not hear.
It all comes back to me now, as I spit into the wind.
"I see, said the blind man to his deaf daughter as he stuck his wooden leg out the window to see if it was raining."

And one more version of the TT quote
"Tough titty said the cat to the kitty, but the milks all gone"
Also heard as "but the milk's still good." FWIW, I heard these 2 versions in the mid 70's from individuals from the Eastern part of the country.
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  #41  
Old 10-27-2008, 06:27 AM
DSYoungEsq DSYoungEsq is offline
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Bump for Monday.
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  #42  
Old 10-27-2008, 11:29 PM
Markxxx Markxxx is offline
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I know when we were kids we'd say "Hard Cheese." I know my friends in NZ say "tough chedder." I wonder if "tough titties" could have been a way to substitute an alliteration for cheese
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  #43  
Old 10-29-2008, 10:33 AM
Thing Fish Thing Fish is offline
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Grew up in Midwest & West coast in the 70s, heard "tough titty" but never any of these longer versions from both adults and peers. Seemed to mean "I hear your complaint, am not particularly sympathetic to it, and have no intention of taking any action to alleviate it".
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  #44  
Old 10-29-2008, 11:34 AM
gurujulp gurujulp is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DSYoungEsq View Post
My point was, if "titties" as used on the school ground was really meaning "tits" "boobs" "breasts of human women", it would be supressed on the school playground, similar to the way that words like "pussy", "cock" and "bitch" are. Whatever else you may hear there, you generally don't hear those words a heck of a lot at school (not at decent schools, anyway).
I must needs refute that point- you hear them all quite often at good schools- just not around adults.

The only difference between the 'good' and the 'bad' is that the bad kids (or at the bad schools) the behavior is visible instead of under wraps. Kids are still kids, pushing boundaries and each other verbally as well as in other ways.
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  #45  
Old 10-29-2008, 02:22 PM
AndrewJRichards AndrewJRichards is offline
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The answer can be found in the definition of "tough shit" from the New Dictionary of American Slang, Edited by Robert L. Chapman, 1986, p.444:

tough shit - sentence (Variations: nibs or noogies or rocks or tiddy or titty may replace shit) That's too bad; that's a terrible shame - always mocking: "Tough tiddy," the Boss said - Robert Penn Warren / Well, my friend, that's just tough shit about your lost plane ticket / to which one has to say, with whatever empathy...tough nibs - Villace Voice / That's tough shit, man, my heart really bleeds - WT Tyler / Well...tough titty - Armistead Maupin [most forms probably from black or Southern; the mammary forms seem based on a black folk-saying, "It's tough titty, but the milk is good"]
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  #46  
Old 10-29-2008, 03:21 PM
scm1001 scm1001 is offline
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I havent the answer to the OP, but I must say I did find some interesting websites when googling it
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  #47  
Old 10-29-2008, 03:53 PM
Rack-a-Bones Rack-a-Bones is offline
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NorCal late 70's - we'd say "tough titty said the kitty when the milk ran dry." Don't know where I picked it up from though.

<side note> first curse word I heard on a playground was 'bastard.' I got home that day and started calling my dad a bastard. He ignored it a few times then finally sat me down and asked me if I knew what that meant. When I said no he explained it to me. I ran new words through the neighbor kid after that. </sn>
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  #48  
Old 10-29-2008, 06:54 PM
Bayard Bayard is offline
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I have nothing to add except that I heard "tough titty said the kitty....something I no longer remember" a lot in the 70's and 80's in Missouri.

I like the farm connection, with the phrase maybe making the leap to more general use when American farm kids and city kids shared slang in WWI. But I base that on absolutely no evidence.
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  #49  
Old 10-29-2008, 11:05 PM
Ruby Ruby is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rhubarb View Post
"I see, said the blind man to his deaf daughter as he stuck his wooden leg out the window to see if it was raining."
I haven't found a cite yet to give this version any more credibiliity ...

"One bright day, in the middle of the night,
Two dead boys got up to fight

And the narrator, with his story untold,
Meekly whispered, loud and bold,

The beginning words, to the meeting's end,
You, my enemy, are now my friend,

Oh, now I see said the blind man, to the deaf mute.
As he picked up a hammer and saw

He called his wife on the disconnected telephone to see if it was raining
(They lived on the corner, in the middle of the block,
On the second floor of a vacant lot.)
She stuck her wooden arm through the knot hole in the brick wall"



The rhyming is lost in the last stanza so I'm not sure this is at all accurate, but at least it's longer.
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  #50  
Old 10-30-2008, 03:11 AM
The Seventh Deadly Finn The Seventh Deadly Finn is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ruby View Post
I haven't found a cite yet to give this version any more credibiliity ...

"One bright day, in the middle of the night,
Two dead boys got up to fight...
The rhyme I heard as a kid (Southern Illinois, late 70s):

"One morning in the middle of the night
Two dead boys got up to fight.

Back-to-back they faced each other,
Drew their swords and shot each other.

A deaf policeman heard the noise,
Came and shot the two dead boys.

If you don't believe this lie is true,
Ask the blind man-- he saw it, too."

I haven't thought about this in years. It sounds like it might be a lot older than 30 years, though.
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