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This is a limerick I've taken from "The Wordsworth Book of Limericks".

It's published in this form in many other books and also all over the internet.

To his bride said the lynx-eyed detective,
"Can it be that my eyesight's defective?
Has your east tit the least bit
The best of your west tit?

Or is it a trick of perspective?"

I'm having trouble parsing the lines in bold.

Does "the least bit" mean "slightly" here? Or maybe "has" means "does … have?" Or "bit" is the past participle of "bite"?

None of these readings make any sense to me.

What does this phrase mean?

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – tchrist
    Jul 2, 2021 at 4:35

2 Answers 2

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I think the line break between the 3rd and 4th lines both makes the sentence difficult to read and that difficulty/ambiguity is a part of the humor.

  1. has your east tit: is your east tit
  2. the least bit the best: a little larger/longer
  3. of your west tit: than your west tit
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  • It definitely plays on the repetition of "-t" and "-st" which makes it a bit of a tongue-twister. This interpretation seems correct as well. Ideally you would add references to justify this, but it's not always easy in cases where you're interpreting a text.
    – Stuart F
    Sep 8, 2022 at 12:47
  • If you replace "lynx-eyed" with "garda" you will get a better feel for the limerick as a whole. The third and fourth lines are almost entirely Irish dialect and don't make complete sense in other dialects. To "have the best of" does not, anywhere else, have the meaning of winning in a contest and I can't imagine anyone but an Irish person referring to someone's left and right body parts as east and west.
    – BoldBen
    Sep 8, 2022 at 19:58
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To his bride said the hawk-eyed detective:
"Is my eyesight a trifle defective?
Has your west tit the least bit
The best of your east tit?
Or is it a trick of perspective?"

Trifle is a funny word.
And the internal rhyming in lines 3 and 4 works better this way.

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  • The question was how to parse lines 3 and 4 of the original, which this doesn't answer. Sep 8, 2022 at 11:36

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