Well, my fellow grammarians, here I am with another mea culpa for you, and the timing coincides nicely with the Kentucky Derby.
If your friend is being impatient, is he “chomping at the bit” or “champing at the bit?” The phrase originates in reference to a horse and the bit that goes in his mouth that’s attached to the reins.
I will admit to being guilty of saying someone is “chomping at the bit.” Now, in my defense, there are some good reasons why I’ve been mistakenly saying “chomping” instead of “champing.”
First, chomping and champing have very similar meanings.
Chomp – to chew (food) noisily
Champ – to bite upon or grind, especially impatiently; to make vigorous chewing or biting movements with the jaws and teeth
Second, “chomping at the bit” is the Americanization of the English idiom “champing at the bit” and there are references to this change as early as 1920 in the United States.
I certainly don’t want to offend my friends who raise, care for, and train horses, nor do I wish to offend the grammatical purists who carry on the battle of preserving these idioms and phrases. It’s been an interesting history lesson on the etymology of these phrases and I’m champing at the bit to learn more.
Have a grammar rule you’d like me to explore? Drop me a line at email@example.com.
Author Catherine Spicer is a manager of customer content services at PR Newswire.