Grammar: Breast vs Tit [REPOST]

tools of the tradeThis not exactly a grammar issue but a stylized choice. Like other segments on this site, I discuss the rules of Grammar which turn out not to be rules but a stylized option.

Now if you came here expecting literary erotica and pictures of naked women, I am sorry to disappoint you. This will be a mature article on the discussion of how to describe a body part found on a female (technically a male too, but men get skiddish on the suggestion of that).

 

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First lets get the slang out of the way. Using Urban Dictionary, these are all the slang for breasts. For your viewing pleasure, I have decided to use pictures:

Tits

Balloons

Boob

Boobie

Cans

Hooter

Juggs

Knockers

Melons

Headlights

There is A LOT more than that , but I pulled out what I think are the most common one. Since I am cut for size for the title length, all those words just now are be considered against the word breast. So Breast vs (all the other words).

I’m sure there are a few girls looking at this and thinking along the terms that boys who use those terms are immature, but I will quickly point out that I’ve heard girls use the same terms, or even refer to theirs as girls, the twins, the money makers. So girls are not entirely innocent in this conversation.

Normally I would address this kind of issue by starting out with definitions. I sort of took care of that with the pictures above. The problems with definitions in this article is that we are dealing with slang, and technically slang is incorrect usage of a word to begin with. Eventually slang becomes another definition.

Simple to remember: ‘tit’ is a type of bird, and ‘boob’ is a term for an idiot. There are many definitions for those words, but I ask you to remember those terms for later.

The general rule of thumb of usage between the normal term and slang, is using the normal term by default. In this case, breast. Now this is true for doing sci-fi, fantasy, non-fic, or even erotic/romance. It is better to say breasts than tits. For example:

She ripped off her shirt to reveal her big tits.
She ripped off her shirt to reveal her big breasts.

Read those out loud, scream if you must (unless you are at work, don’t want you to get fired). Which sounds better? If you say A, then that may be because you yourself are more use to it, but let me assure you, most people will say B (unless they are being difficult and say A in spite).

Why is this important? As I mentioned, this comes to the issue of maturity. Why would you care if the reader thinks you are mature? Same reason you have good grammar, to keep people reading your story. If they don’t like how you write, then they will stop reading… and why give them ammunition?

Want an example of bad writing with slang terms for body parts, then check out 50 Shades of Grey. I do enjoy a girl saying ‘down there’ to refer to her vagina (or her sex). Most people who did read it will agree the writing is bad, and the main reason to read it is for a fictitious peak into the BDSM lifestyle.

So when talking about a female body part, use breasts instead of tits or boobs. Easy enough.

EXCEPT

Yes, there are exceptions to this. It name comes down to voice. Voice of the character or voice of the narrator. Even if you use 3rd person perspective (omniscient) there is still a voice being heard in our heads when we read it.

What’s important here is intent. Now the obvious one is character. Your characters is not the narrator (unless it is first person perspective) and thus can get away with saying the word tit where you are bound to say the word breast. Example:

Jim turned to see the girl walking past him, in her string bikini. He couldn’t help but notice her breasts. After she passed by, he nudges his friend next to him and said, “Did you see the chick with the big juggs?”

We can all imagine a Jim in our lives saying something like that, or even using the word chick when the narrator says girl. So this is an exception when a character uses it, and unless his girlfriend is right next to him, he’ll probably use those words exactly.

The second exception is narration. Now before, I said that doing this can show a sign of immaturity, but if the narrator is the type to use such a word, it is OK, so long as you indicate who and what the narrator is. If the narrator is a cameraman for Girls Gone Wild, then it might be feasible to believe he uses the slang terms a lot while he tells the story. The narrator can also be from a time or place as all the other characters when breasts were bosom, so the narrator says that instead of breasts.

If you can demonstrate a reason why the narration (whether 1st, 3rd, or 3rd-limited) should be using these terms, then go for it. But if there is no reason for it, then you probably should stick to the normal term. I had a conversation about this with J. Rose and she had this to say:

In essence, that’s what all of writing is: trying to specifically accomplish something with the narration of a story. So when the situation dictates it, bring on the graphic word use. If it does not warrant it, use the words that best paint the scene you are writing.

LASTLY

Let’s talk about the Publisher. If you are deciding to go with a traditional publisher, they ultimate have final say in your story. They will have guidelines for how you tell your story and may not appreciate specific word usage. They may not like the use of the word knockers and tell you to change it to breasts. So that is another consideration.

In the end, it is about your intention of how you tell your story and who will be your target market. If you do romance/erotica, you will get a lot of female readers. But if you do most other types of fiction, you will get a good mix of both.

We are storytellers, and we want people to read our story. Many of us want to make a career out of this, and to do that our writing needs to be spread by word of mouth. And the best way to do that is to write well.

Now the white elephant in the room, 50 Shades of Grey. People see this and want to emulate it because they believe it will give them success. As I spoke in previous article, intellectual integrity, this book had a cult following before it was published, and has been critiqued in a negative way by many many writers and critcs.

Put simply:

Unless your narration has a specific reason to use the slang, remember that tit is a bird and boob is an idiot. Breast is an anatomy part.

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