Both “spitting image” and “spit and image” are common phrases. But which one should you use in your writing? In today’s post, we’ll try to answer this question by taking a look at the background of these expressions.
What Do These Phrases Mean?
“Spitting image” and “spit and image” are variants of an idiom that means someone who looks very much like another person:
Many would agree that Natalie Portman is the spitting image of Keira Knightley.
That baby is the spit and image of his dad.
The Origin of “Spitting Image”
It seems that the original version of the idiom was neither “spitting image” nor “spit and image,” but “spitten image”. The word “spitten” is a non-standard past participle of spit. So, the idiom refers to the resemblance someone has to their father, whom they were spit out of.
The expression “spitten image” was first used to describe sons who looked like their fathers, but it’s come to refer to anyone who looks very much like another person, whether related or not.
Over the years, the term gradually changed to “spittin image” and eventually to “spitting image.”
What About “Spit and Image?”
The idiom “spit and image” comes from the same idea that somebody’s “spit” is their perfect likeness. So, referring to somebody as a “spit and image” of another person emphasizes their similarity by saying it twice. As proofreaders, we’d call this a redundancy because spit and image have the same meaning.
Summary: Spitting Image or Spit and Image?
The idioms “spitting image” and “spit and image” both refer to someone who closely resembles another person. Both are based on the idea that there could only be such a close resemblance if one of the people was spit out of the other.
Language keeps changing, and while “spit and image” was once the more popular version, it’s since been overtaken by “spitting image.” However, both versions are correct, so you can choose which one you prefer.
If you want to make sure you use idioms correctly, you should have your writing proofread by an expert. To find out how our team can help you polish your writing, send us a free trial document today.