Champing at the bit or chomping at the bit?
The bit is the metal mouthpiece used for controlling a horse. It champs down on it when impatient or eager. A lot of people say it chomps down on it, which is incorrect – or is it?
You might feel a sense of superiority knowing that it’s champing, but chomping is used 20 times more frequently on the web. So everyone’s wrong except you.
That 20:1 ratio is only going to increase as children grow up in a world where chomping is more popular, despite it being incorrect.
It makes more sense to them that way because they’ll learn what chomp means at an early age. In isolation, champ looks weird – mainly because it doesn’t exist outside of that idiom.
You’re comfortably outnumbered, but you know that it’s champing. What do you do?
You can live in the past, or you can move with the times. Language is changing, and it’s changing all the time. I know it’s champing, and I’d like to preserve English too, but the real beauty about our language is that it’s flexible.
We’re actually at a time where we’re seeing it change.
When enough people use a word in a certain way, it becomes official. People are the driving force of language, not dictionaries. They answer to us. That’s the way language works.
Since we’re in a transitional phase with chomping and champing I’m divided over how I’ll proceed for now. But there can be no doubt about it – in 50, 20, or maybe five years’ time, champing at the bit will be consigned to history and chomping at the bit will be the norm, the accepted and the correct form.
And someone in 50 years’ time will write a very interesting article on how we once used to say champing at the bit like a bunch of cavemen.