A WORD IN THE HAND: CHAMP
It makes horse sense to track the origin of a chewy verb for a bit
A column to satisfy your inner grammar nerd
The 2020 Durban July was won by the champion steed Belgarion, son of Dynasty, which is not the name of a character from The Lord of the Rings, although it should be. The race took place on Saturday without the usual glister of glamorous humans in attendance. This year, punters had to watch from their couches as Belgarion and his cohorses champed at the bit to get going.
That’s right: champed. Pedants stamp their hooves and snort when they hear about horses “chomping at the bit” but we have lost this battle as surely as we lost the war against “literally” being used to mean “figuratively”.
“Champ” is not just short for champion. It is a verb meaning to bite or chew impatiently that dates back to the 1520s. Horses literally champ at the bit when eager to be let out of the starting gate to race against other horses...
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