Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

The Cat in the Hat, by Dr Seuss contains the following:

I do not like this said the fish as he lit. I do not like it, not one little bit.

What on earth does lit mean in this context?

A guess is that it means alighted, considering the fish has landed in the teapot.

Perhaps it's a typo?

Thanks to my 5-year old daughter for spotting this, somehow I never noticed it myself.

share|improve this question
2  
Yes, you're right. It's an alternate past participle for alight. –  user21497 May 25 '13 at 14:24
    
@BillFranke can you find a reference for that? I can only find mention of alit and alighted but I don't have access to good dictionary. –  terdon May 25 '13 at 14:33
    
@terdon: Here's a link to thesaurus.com for alit. You can trust thesaurus.com. Wiktionary also has an entry. M-W #rd Unabridged says: "Main Entry:alit = past of ALIGHT" & "Main Entry:1alight Pronunciation:**l*t, usu -d.+V Function:intransitive verb Inflected Form:alighted \-*d.*d, -*t*d\ ; or sometimes alit **lit\ ; alighted ; alighting ; alights Etymology:Middle English alighten to alight, alighten, from Old English *l*htan, from *- (perfective prefix) + l*htan to alight, lighten * more at ABEAR, LIGHT" –  user21497 May 25 '13 at 14:42
    
@BillFranke thanks but I see no mention of lit (although they do suggest light as a synonym) in either of the links you offered. Your M-W seems to mention it though, assuming that **lit is a reference to lit. –  terdon May 25 '13 at 14:51
1  
It's pretty standard to use light/lit to refer to flying creatures like insects or birds, and metaphorically to people or animals flitting around rapidly. –  John Lawler May 25 '13 at 16:42
show 4 more comments

1 Answer 1

It is the past of light, a verb which has almost fallen out of use, but means the same as alight.

The OED says s.v. 'light'

II. To descend. Cf. alight v.1

with an example from William Morris in 1868: "While from the horse he lit adown." (I imagine it was a deliberate archaism by Morris).

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.