Date: Sun, 29 Jun 1997 03:01:07 -0400
From: "Barry A. Popik" Bapopik[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]AOL.COM
Subject: MIKE TYSON SPECIAL: Bite
"Another one bites the dust."
Mike Tyson got disqualified today by biting Evander Holyfield. When asked why he did this
twice, he responded, "FIGHT? This was a world championship FIGHT? That's very different! I
thought Don King said--"
Fighters often claim to "chew up" their opponents (RHHDAS has boxing references for this);
some even "eat them for breakfast."
Fighters usually don't do this literally!!
The word "bite" itself has been big the past twenty years, perhaps helped by the "byte" and by
the sexual innuendo. Bart Simpson or Beavis and Butthead might say that something really
"bites." A recent movie was called REALITY BITES. A recent David Letterman joke was "bite
me," and Letterman asked, "Can we say 'bite me' on tv?"
In baseball, a player who swings at a ball in the dirt "goes fishing." RHHDAS has a baseball
"bite" as "a hard swing at a pitched ball," with only one 1914 citation and no explanation. The
term clearly comes from fishing and may have been popularized in connection with the crazy
pitcher Rube Waddell, who often missing games to go fish. Paul Dickson's BASEBALL
DICTIONARY has this from 1905.
RHHDAS has "bite the bullet" from 1891. I think this comes from powder tubes that had to
be bitten to quickly reload, and it's probably much earlier than this date, since the rifles date from
RHHDAS has "bite the big one" from 1977, although I remember it a bit earlier. This refers to
fellatio as the "big one." There is a nice RHHDAS entry on "big one," but it surprisingly omits
the famous song by Tom Lehrer--"Let's drop the big one now! Let's drop the big one now!"--that
antedates its "atomic destruction" entries.
A check of the New York Public Library's CATNYP titles (from 1972) shows a book called
BITE HARD (1997) about male homosexuality. This, I suppose, would also be about "biting the
"Bite your lip" is not in RHHDAS; it's probably the still innocent "shut your mouth!"
"Biters and the Bitten, or Biting in All Trades" is the title of a London broadside ballad from
1844. I haven't had a chance to go to the NYPL to check the lyrics. The ballad itself is a takeoff
from the Aesop fable "A Biter Bit" (page 60 in the Penguin edition), where a snake bites into a file
at a smith's workshop and receives a comeuppance.
"Bite" has come a long way, from fishing to baseball to sex to computers and now to boxing.
It probably deserves a full treatment, but I haven't time.
"...And in this corner, Mike 'the Cannibal' Tyson!!!"
Nah, I still wouldn't pay fifty bucks.