Bits and Bobs Definition

For an hour and more, Mrs. Tiplady entertained Salerno with gossip – light, if a little muddy, like Porter`s foam – with pieces and bobs of music hall songs and step dances and with short, bird-like caresses – the most cautious country lady, deeply in love with her Viking as she was. In the UK, bits and bobs in the sense of utensils are also suitable as a (rather polite) euphemism for private parts of the body. Sometimes shortened to just a few bits. “Bits and Bobs” can either refer to a selection of physical objects; or various jobs or tasks that need to be performed. So while you can say, “I need to buy a few little things, like pens and books, to do my job,” you can also say, “When I get my pens and books, there are a few little things that need to be done in the office.” Context clearly indicates whether you are referring to things or tasks. Because of this difference in meaning, you can use it in any relevant situation, whether in a social or professional context. In terms of “bits and bobs” that appear in American sources, Google Ngram Viewer shows sporadic use in the twentieth century, with a gradual increase from the 70s. My mother made lace and had pillows with about 50 hanging “coils”. Coils are wooden pins (usually) with wire wrapped around them. Just curious that the original expression (bits and bobs) has a link with weaving, embroidery, sewing, lace, etc.

To save a bit, “bits and bobs” does not have its own entry in the Oxford English Dictionary, but is included in a larger entry for various expressions that contain “bit”. It is grouped with “pieces and pieces” (very familiar to Americans) and “pieces and bats” (this is not the case) and defined as “fragments, oddities, odds and endings”; small items, personal belongings, bells and whistles. The first quote is an entry in A Warwickshire Word-book, 1896, which gave an example of a phrase: “Collect your pieces and bobs, and let me put down the tea.” In any case, it`s a useful phrase, not quite the same as “Bits and Pieces” – which to me is always reminiscent of Dave Clark Five`s song anyway. I can imagine it`s here to stay. “Bits and Bobs.” dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Retrieved 4 October 2022. I only know this phrase as the title of a Who album. (The little things, the little things, and the pieces are the phrases I know).

The term has been used 57 times in the New York Times, some, but not all, in British quotation marks. The first appearance is in a 1951 review of a children`s book about the production of dolls, for example, with “the little things that can be found in a little boy`s pocket.” And the most recent is in a December 2017 greeting column that describes one of the bride and groom: “He was always creative and loved to make bill heels and doodles on the back of the envelope with pieces of paper he had saved.” I think it has a slightly different meaning. Bits and Bobs is a neutral term for utensils (for example, the contents of my mother`s knitted bag), but Odds and Sods is more pejorative, which means leftovers, leftovers, unnecessary garbage, etc. As mentioned in the previous post, I was surprised when Harvard historian Jill Lepore used “Bits and Bobs” in a New Yorker article; the term simply seemed too British to be used by an American. But to paraphrase John Lennon, Lepore is “not the only one.” On Friday 23 March 2018 at 10.15am, Not One-Off Britishisms wrote: “deeply in love with his Viking as he was” – what? However, I found a use in the Google Books database that seems to be two years ahead. It`s in the novel Baptist Lake by John Davidson (a Scottish writer): I doubt that the more vulgar version of “Odds and Sods” will ever arrive in Stateside. Google Books also suggests that “Bits and Bobs” was used as a chapter title in a photo directory a year earlier, in 1893, but the date cannot be confirmed, which Google shows from the book. I`ve always wondered if it had more to do with money – since slang for a three-penny coin was a bit and slang was a bob for a shilling. Have you seen that? I haven`t heard the word “codswallop” in a long time, and certainly not here in the United States. I have lived here for over 40 years.

Brenda Harris.

Bihar Legal Service Authority

October 4, 2022

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October 4, 2022