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Millennials Aren’t Killing Titties, We’re Just Changing the Way We Spell the Word

The Extremely Online are destroying language — one tiddy (or tity) at a time

From 2012 to 2016, the number of Hooters dropped 7 percent. Could the breastaurant simply be going the way of pretty much every other fast casual chain? Of course not! This is about boobs, goddamnit. More specifically, how millennials don’t like them, unless, of course, they’re metaphorically sucking off their mother’s teat well into their 30s.

Last year, we were the first to report on Pornhub data that showed “millennials between the ages of 18 to 34 are far less likely to search for both big or small breasts compared to most age groups over the age of 35,” and draw the slightly disingenuous conclusion that they’re killing them — their latest victim after napkins, capitalism and lunch.

But millennials still love boobs — ask any dude munching on free-range chicken strips at a burlesque club in Portland. He loves ogling titties just as much as his Boomer father but feels better about himself when they’re attached to highly educated brunettes with full sleeves and master’s degrees. We can quibble over the rise and fall of aesthetic trends like fake tits, but humans are the only mammal who sexualize breasts — them making us horny is biological — so even the most woke cuckboi probably can’t deny the allure of some funbags. (Full disclosure: As I write this, a mousepad where my wrist rests on two giant titties, a gift from a porn star that makes every work day and word I type infinitely better.)

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Maybe then we aren’t killing titties as much as trying to reshape them, if you will, particularly when it comes to the spelling. We’ve always had an exhaustive amount of slang terms for boobs (Gazongas! Snuggle pups! Yabbos!), but as an editor, I’ve noticed that the fan favorite — “titties” — is constantly being iterated upon by millennials, with us seemingly incapable of deciding on a spelling — not to mention, being extremely passionate about our spelling of choice.

I first started thinking about this when columnist merritt k wrote about the state of fake boobs and tried to get away with “tity” — with one “t” — throughout the entire draft. I thought it was a typo, but I was astounded to learn that merritt is on a one-woman crusade to make “tity” both the singular and plural.

She says she first saw this spelling years ago when she made a friend from Atlanta, home of rapper Tity Boi who later changed his name to 2 Chainz — i.e., something more “family friendly.” (Personally, I prefer two tits over two chains.) “Spelling things wrong is funny and doing it with the word titty is even funnier for childish reasons,” she says when I ask her why she’s trying to ruin my grammar/life. “Destroying language is hilarious, and it’s a big part of weird internet garbage culture.” She’s right: On Weird Twitter, freaks purposely misspell words (like cofy for coffee or thank’s for thanks) as a common joke. So not surprisingly, when I ask Merritt if she’ll ever stop trolling me, she says, “I will never stop spelling it tity. You’re gonna have to keep correcting me for the rest of our working relationship.”

Still, I thought merritt was a lone tity weirdo until I encountered “tiddies” in writer and designer Robyn Kanner’s draft on trolling Instagram’s nudity policy. “Tiddies” — apparently also the choice spelling of my bible, Jezebel — first appeared when Kanner was describing a scene in Garden State where Method Man asks Zach Braff, Peter Sarsgaard and Natalie Portman if they “saw some titties.” In this case, Kanner was using the double d (lol) as a pronunciation spelling common in slang cause she thinks it “has more swagger.” “Titties with a ‘t’ is nice, but it just sounds like college boys talking about boobs,” she says. “Tiddies is ‘we are older, but we are recognizing we are making a joke about boobs.’” Because “titties” is so ridiculous, making it even more so somehow neutralizes the effect with comedy — or at least gives you some ironic distance.

“Titties is a grotesque word to talk about boobs,” Kanner says, adding that it reminds her of “locker room talk.” “When I refer to them, I call them breasts because they are tender and they are mine.” Kanner remembers a time when she was at a play party, and a woman told her to ask the mistress to “whip my tits.” In the moment, Kanner couldn’t bring herself to use the word “tits,” so she said “boobs” instead and the dom got really pissed. Turns out “boobs” are hardly ever hot — and definitely not at a BDSM club.

For more bastardized titty spellings, I put a call out on Twitter. A couple of responses were normal (“I think ‘titty’ is the correct spelling. The plural is ‘titties.’ Thanks.”), but normalcy was far outnumbered by insanity. People are really out here saying:

  • Bitty (of Tig Ol’)
  • Titay
  • Titdy
  • Tibby (for people with double Bs, I assume)
  • Tithee (like the archaic English “prithee,” which “conveys a sense of respect for the tithee”)

Then there are the people with very specific opinions on how it should be spelled given the context:

That’s all well and good, of course — until you have to edit a publication and present some semblance of professionalism. So please miss me with this bullshit:

Since everyone seemingly contracts mad cow disease when they sit down to type the word titty, I decide to consult a professional, Dennis Preston, the regents professor of linguistics at Oklahoma State University who recently helped us confirm that Merriam-Webster’s pronunciation of “pubes” was wrong. “For a long time ‘tit’ really only referred to an animal’s nipples for nursing. In fact, he adds, it wasn’t until 1928 that we women even had “tits.” “But now ‘tit’ and especially ‘titties,’ exclusively refer to a woman’s breasts.”

The plural in this case is also a diminutive, which means the word refers to something that’s “familiar, adorable, stuff I hang around with a lot,” not necessarily that said tits are small, which is what some people claim on Urban Dictionary. For that reason, Preston says, “Titties sound a little friendlier than tits.” Perhaps people keep screwing with the spelling as a form of endearing personalization — as if to say, Titties are so special to me they have their own special name.

In that sense, millennials don’t just not hate titties — or tity or tiddy or bitty or titay or titdy or tibby or tithee or tit€ — they actually love them more than ever.