1. dillseed
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    dillseed Active Member

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    wit's end or wits' end?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by dillseed, May 30, 2014.

    wit's end or wits' end?

    I've seen both.

    I'm thinking it's wits' end because, hopefully, we as humans have more than one wit! E.g.: I'm at my wits' end.

    TY
     
  2. stevesh
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    stevesh Banned Contributor

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    Wits'
     
  3. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    wit's end. We only have one wit to be at the end of!

    Like when you reach the end of your tether, you only have one tether.

    If it was wits' - as in more than one wit, then it would be spoken as witses, not as wits, and you don't say "at my witses end."

    Also, if you make the wits plural, there would be more than one end, so you would therefore have to say "at my witses ends."

    (have spelled witses phonetically so that you know what I'm talking about)
     
  4. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Interesting. This seems to be another of those British/American splits.

    Americans prefer wit's end.

    British prefer wits' end.

    I suppose technically they're both correct. Just depends on whether you have more than one wit! No dig at Americans intended...

    http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/wits'_end
     
    Last edited: May 30, 2014
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  5. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    I'm British and prefer the American way! Always knew I was born in the wrong place! ;)

    Either that or I've been writing in American English for too long, the other day I told my son to pick up his cell phone from the floor. He just looked at me like he understood my madness o_O
     
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  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    what makes you think americans would all be so silly?

    we say 'i had my wits about me,' so 'wits' is a plural, or possibly a collective noun, thus needs to have the appostrophe placed after the 's' not before it...

    'wit' and 'wits' do not mean the same thing...
     
  7. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    I've never heard "had my wits about me"
     
  8. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Errrm ...that was just a joke—based on the information in the link. And despite living in Scotland, I'm still an American myself. :)
     
  9. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    What about dumb people who only have one wit about them? :p
     
  10. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Gotta be wit's...
     
  11. cazann34
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    cazann34 Active Member

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    Isn't it 'wits end', I've always thought so.
     
  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    no, because it's the 'end' of the 'wits'... so 'wits' has to be a possessive...
     
  13. AlannaHart
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    AlannaHart Contributing Member

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    I think in Old English 'wit' meant something akin to 'know' and therefore being at one's wit's end means being at the end of your knowledge. I'd personally go with wit's.
     
  14. Mike Kobernus
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    Mike Kobernus Contributing Member

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    Cutecat is wrong.

    It should be wits' end.

    It is a possessive apostrophe applied to a pluralised noun.

    "Keep my wits about me" is a very common phrase. Although usage of the word has dropped steadily over the last centuries, it is still in use and far from archaic, even in its original meaning.

    Wit, meaning humor, is the same root as wits, meaning intelligence, obviously.

    I copied this bit from an online dictionary: Old English witan, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch weten and German wissen, from an Indo-European root shared by Sanskrit veda ‘knowledge’ and Latin videre ‘see’.
     

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