Tits Up

Last updated: 09/03/2020 | 93 views | Report error

Meaning


What does Tits Up mean?

Tits up is a mildly vulgar expression meaning that something is dead, like a person or an animal. It can also refer to something that is broken or malfunctioning.

It is also used as slang for an unfortunate attempt to do something, like if you failed your test, your test is “tits up”.

Where the phrase got its meaning depends on who you are asking.

Some claim that it’s because when animals, particularly mammals die, they lie in a position where their nipples are pointing upwards.

Another idea is that it’s because while drowned male corpses float face down, drowned female corpses float “tits up”, likely because of the excess fat tissue.

Others say that it is because when planes go down, they end up upside down, with their wheels pointing towards the sky, and pilots would often say that they are “tits up”.

Last, but not least, some claim that it is a military acronym, “Total Inability To Support Usual Performance”.

Search Interest

Origin of the term

As mentioned above, there are numerous different explanations for the meaning of the phrase “tits up”, none better than the other. Therefore, it is difficult to assume which one is the actual origin.

However, two facts about its origin are confirmed: firstly, that it arose during the second World War, and secondly, that it started out as a military slang.

Spread of the term

While most etymologists agree on the meaning of the expression, its origin and usage is under great discussion.

Besides WWII, some argue that it was more likely to be used in the Royal Air Force. Others doubt that it was a military slang at all, as British lexicographer Eric Partridge, who had a great interest in British military slang, didn’t mention “tits up” once.

Further information/sources

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