13

This is a phrase I've heard used on several occasions by different people. I'm interested about what it's origins are, and whether it should be considered rude.

Essentially it means "That's tough luck!", but with an unapologetic undertone.

e.g.

Person A: Strawberry ice-cream? But I wanted chocolate.

Person B: Tough titty. That's all they had.

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  • 1
    It is of course rude and that is part of the reason for its popularity, the other being, I would argue, the alliteration.
    – JeffSahol
    Jan 27 '12 at 13:05
8

Chambers Slang Dictionary dates it to the 1920s, and also records the variants hard titty, tough tiddy, tough tit, tough titties and tough tits. It is defined as ‘bad luck’ and shown to produce tough tits, toots, described, accurately enough, I would imagine, as ‘a phrase of dismissal’. A hardened nipple is, presumably, less likely to deliver the sustenance, or any other comfort, normally expected of it and so those, infants or others, who encounter such an anatomical feature might be thought unfortunate.

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    Shouldn't it be bad luck instead of bad lack?
    – Irene
    Jan 27 '12 at 11:46
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    I agree with your citation, but your conjecture seems a little off the mark to me. In point of fact, nursing does toughen a woman's nipples (it has to, or they would bleed after much use). And nipple erection, or hardening, is a frequent (and, one might say, welcome) concomitant of love-making.
    – Robusto
    Jan 27 '12 at 13:05
  • 1
    @Robusto: I'm sure you're right. I know little of such things. Jan 27 '12 at 17:45
4

"Tough had meant hard luck since the early 1870s, with tough luck first being recorded in 1890, tough titty in 1929, and tough shit in 1946, though this last was probably in use much earlier but wasn't recorded until changes in attitudes and morality after World War II began to allow such terms in print."

From "Listening to America" by Stuart Berg Flexner (Simon and Schuster, New York, 1982).

Source: http://www.phrases.org.uk/bulletin_board/4/messages/1024.html

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  • Google books search brings back a 1921 reference. Sep 21 '14 at 14:09
  • It seems reasonable to suspect that "titty" may have been substituted for some other ruder word (though nothing obvious comes to mind).
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 10 '15 at 0:06
  • I see Hot Licks also moonlights on English S.E.!
    – nielsbot
    Feb 17 '15 at 2:29
3

There is more to it than that. The original was

Tough titty said the kitty when the milk went dry.

There are more lines to the jingle than just one. My uncle use to recite this with about 5 lines in it. It is about milking cows, nothing to do with women. When the milking is done, or if the cow has problems, that is what it is about. I was hoping someone would know the actual ditty.

2
  • books.google.co.uk/… But this answer has already been suggested by @Jelly
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 5 '16 at 14:16
  • My father used to say it as "tough titty said the kitty, but the milk runs through." Apparently it has acquired regional variations. I was never certain whether the "kitty" was referring to a cow or its mother. But the fact that it refers to milking is entirely correct.
    – cobaltduck
    Jan 5 '16 at 14:25
1

tough luck--tough shit, stuff or tiddy (titty)

d. tough luck (colloquial, originally U.S.), hard luck, misfortune; esp. as an expression of (sometimes ironic) commiseration; also (chiefly U.S. slang) tough shit, stuff or tiddy (titty).

1912 Collier's 28 Sept. 19/1 ‘Tough luck, old top’, he muttered.

1932 Kansas City Times 14 Jan. 18 It may be Mr. Hoover's tough luck to be both renominated and re~elected.

1934 J. T. Farrell Calico Shoes 143 You have to take your chances, and if you can't swim, you sink. It's just your tough tiddy.

1944 in A. M. Taylor Lang. World War II 198 Beachhead chaplains are carrying a special ‘tough stuff’ ticket these days which they issue to guys with complaints about which nothing can be done.

1946 Amer. Speech 21 249 [Army vocabulary.] Tough shit, something which is unfortunate, but about which nothing can be done.

1958 S. A. Grau Hard Blue Sky ii. 89 ‘And the whole building near to going down with the next strong wind.’ ‘Tough titty, man.’

1971 ‘A. Burgess’ MF ii. 32 [I got] robbed and rumpled.—Tough titty she said with little sympathy.

1974 Black World Jan. 10/2 Is Mr. Gayle exasperated by the fact that I do not give clear-cut answers to these questions? Tough luck: I do not have them.

1976 New Yorker 1 Mar. 74/2 I'm awfully sorry to hear about your tough luck.

1978 J. Carroll Mortal Friends ii. v. 200 Tough shit, Lady! Morning wears to evening and hearts break.

From OED

Dialogue: 0,0:03:24.49,0:03:26.45,Chn,,0,0,0,,是的 我很乐意去看看\N{\rEng}Yes, I'd like very much to visit the memory

Dialogue: 0,0:03:26.58,0:03:27.78,Chn,,0,0,0,,你发明传送门枪的那段记忆\N{\rEng}of you inventing your portal gun.

Dialogue: 0,0:03:27.91,0:03:30.20,Chn,,0,0,0,,你给我的山芋很烫手啊\N{\rEng}Yeah. Well, tough titties.

Dialogue: 0,0:03:30.33,0:03:33.20,Chn,,0,0,0,,有比神经崩溃更烫手的山芋吗 Rick\N{\rEng}There's no tougher titty than a psychotic break, Rick.

Dialogue: 0,0:03:33.33,0:03:37.25,Chn,,0,0,0,,好吧 那就要看是什么先崩溃了 我 还是 山芋\N{\rEng}Well, that depends on who breaks first -- me or the titty.

From Rick and Morty S03E01 The Rickshank Rickdemption

0

It's a short version of the phrase:

Tough titty said the kitty when the milk went dry.

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0

My grandmother used to use this expression when I was a kid. She was born in 1896 and probably picked it up in the 1920s or so. Fond memories as it wasn't very common.

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It re-emerged into the public domain, at least in Australia about 15 years ago when an interview with a sect leader (Orange people"?) on 60 minutes saw the female spokesperson state the phrase during an interview. Caused a minor stir at the time. Does anyone remember this?

-4

Hello tough tittie forumers. If you would allow me to offer my expertise, I think you will find that the accurate origin of 'Tough titties' in fact comes from following phrase, which was coined by Monsieur Bitty in the 1920s :

'Tough tittie said the pretty kitty wallowing in pity'.

Indeed, a fellow friend also informs me that there is another phrase which could equally be the genuine origin, although this is debatable (to the point where it has caused a ridge in our friendship):

'Tough titty said the old women on the subcommittee in Kansas city.'

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    Reference? And it seems unlikely that the term was coined by the author of either of those -- they simply make use of the alliteration in the (probably pre-existing) term.
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 10 '15 at 0:04
  • Someone with an agenda seems to have been downvoting the responses, without any explanation (as up or down-voting does not require). The Orange People spokeswoman 'tough titties' on 60 Minutes back in the 90s certainly created a lot of laughs about their Rolls-Royce driving cult leader at the time!
    – Pete855217
    Jul 14 '20 at 11:47

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