I've recently been studying etymology and I received a book titled Flappers 2 Rappers: A Study of American Youth Slang written by Dr. Thomas Dalzell. Dr. Dalzell's research goes as far back as the 1850s and one of his entries of that decade is "tight fit" meaning a good joke.

According to http://www.etymonline.com/ the word "killing" meaning extremely funny dates even further back to the 1840s. I understand why a killing is something very funny because when one laughs too hard it causes stomach muscle spasms and shortness of breath, almost restricting the lungs from getting air.

I haven't the least notion why a "tight fit" is a good joke. Any thoughts?

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    Which dictionary says : Tight fit means a good joke?
    – Sweet72
    Commented Sep 28, 2013 at 18:58
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    Are you sure that "tight fit" means "good joke" – and not something more along the lines of "especially approproiate joke?" Some jokes are funny because there is an element of truth to them, or an impersonator might say something you could easily imagine being said by the person they are impersonating. I could see those jokes being called "tight fits."
    – J.R.
    Commented Sep 28, 2013 at 23:00
  • Pardon my etymology, but could it be coarse slang? A generalization of tight fit (sexual sense) = more pleasure/intensity?
    – Merk
    Commented Sep 29, 2013 at 7:18
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    @Sweet72 The slang dictionary of the 1850s suggested a tight fit is a good joke.
    – User53019
    Commented Sep 30, 2013 at 0:47
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    @JohnQPublic No, it's not. The title of the book may be Flappers 2 Rappers but the oldest entries are from the 1850s. My great-grandmother was a flapper as well as yours and one of the oldest living flappers I'm sure of it. She'll be 106 years old in November. Not only was she a flapper but she was a New York City flapper of Italian descent from East Harlem. You can't be more hardboiled than that, old boy.
    – User53019
    Commented Sep 30, 2013 at 1:00

2 Answers 2


A Collection of College Words and Customs (1851) by Benjamin Homer Hall says:

TIGHT FIT. At the University of Vermont, a good joke is denominated by the students a tight fit, and the jokee is said to be " hard up."


"Tight fit" is not used in American English anymore. The word "tight" (meaning cool) still comes and goes in younger slang but is definitely on a cool streak right now.

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