*'Chaise Longue' and 'Champing at the Bit' on the Wane?

For over a decade now, every time I saw “chaise lounge” or “chomping at the bit” in an article I was editing, I changed it.

By traditional copy editor standards, they should be “chaise longue” and “champing at the bit.” Our name for the long chairs called chaises actually comes from the French, in which “chaise longue” literally means “long chair.” Yet for decades, careless American writers have glossed over that last word and assumed it was the English word “lounge.”

Likewise, “champing” isn’t a verb that comes up much these days. According to “Webster’s New World College Dictionary,” it means “to chew hard and noisily.” And, based on my experience as a kid hanging around horse stables, it’s the standard word for describing how horses chew. In my mind, it’s a horse-folk term.

We car-crazy Americans have gotten pretty detached from our country’s horsey roots. So it makes sense that we’d be more comfortable with the idea of the more general “chomping” than with the horse-centric “champing.”

But recently, I’ve started to feel funny about “fixing” them. When I do, I feel that I’m clinging to some bygone standard that is losing relevance by the minute. The “traditional” forms seem less realistic all the time.

A Google search confirms what my gut’s been telling me:

champing at the bit: 687,000 hits.

chomping at the bit: 3 million hits

chaise longue: 5,220,000 hits

chaise lounge: 6,610,000 hits

It’s easy to see which way the tides are turning. It’ll be interesting to see when the style guides finally change their rules.

One Response to “*'Chaise Longue' and 'Champing at the Bit' on the Wane?”

  1. yes, more and more people misunderstand the proper spelling, but doesn't make it less correct.