A bit/little on the + adjective + side

Mr Bones

Senior Member
España - Español
Hello, everybody. I've just learnt this expression and would like to ask you a couple of things about it.

Somewhere, I read the following:

He's a bit on the young side.
He's a little on the young side.

(I don't remember which one I found)

Then I realized that you can use this as a fixed structure and change the adjective. So, we could have these examples:

She's a little on the weird side.
He's a bit on the tough side.
John is a little on the fussy side.

Then, my questions are:

1. Am I right? Can I use that and say things like, He's a bit on the bossy side, for instance?

2. I assume that this is an informal kind of speech. Is it normal in conversation? Can I use it in writing?

3. Does the choice between a bit or a little mean something about BE or AE?

4. Is this formula a bit on the ironic side?

Thank you, Mr Bones (and, please, correct my English).
 
  • petereid

    Senior Member
    english
    1. Am I right? Can I use that and say things like, He's a bit on the bossy side, for instance?:tick:

    2. I assume that this is an informal kind of speech. Is it normal in conversation? Can I use it in writing?:tick:

    3. Does the choice between a bit or a little mean something about BE or AE?
    Not that I know of

    4. Is this formula a bit on the ironic side? It may be, but not necessarily so.
     

    maxiogee

    Banned
    imithe
    I can affirm that "a bit on xyz side" is a commonplace here in Ireland and has been since, at least, my mother first criticised my choice of clothing, asking when I spurned her choice of shirt "Isn't that a bit on the loud side?"
    She won out by the time-honoured parental expedient of baffling the child with an unarguable assertion "I won't wash well. Better stick with my choice dear."
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    This expression is generally OK, but should be used sparingly.

    It is not inherently ironic, but it could be.
    It is often (in my experience) used to make a deliberate understatement.

    How was your holiday?
    It was a bit on the hot side (average shade temperature 45 degrees).

    Did you enjoy the steak?
    It was a bit on the tough side (could well have been used as shoe leather).​
     

    Mr Bones

    Senior Member
    España - Español
    Hi, Max and Panj. Thank you (I love this site and your answers). Just a last thing. When I asked about little or bit, it was because I've always thought that the use of bit in this case is more BE than AE. Maybe some AE speaker can help me...

    Bones
     

    Cayuga

    Senior Member
    English/USA
    Just a last thing. When I asked about little or bit, it was because I've always thought that the use of bit in this case is more BE than AE. Maybe some AE speaker can help me...
    Hey, Bones!

    I'm an American, and I have said:

    X is a little on the Y side.
    X is a bit on the Y side.
    X is a little bit on the Y side.

    I'm guessing that my choice would be based on the rhythm of the sentence -- whichever one would sound best.
     

    Mr Bones

    Senior Member
    España - Español
    Thank you very much, Cayuga. Now I have the American opinion I was looking for as well. By the way, I don't know why I fell for this expression that much. Maybe it's a combination of things: the rhythm you've just mentioned, the understatement pointed out by Panj, the possibility of irony... Perhaps also the fact that it sounds like typical of spoken English, and that's something I appreciate a lot because it's more difficult to learn for me, since I hardly ever have the opportunity to speak English... But I'll follow Panj's advice and use it sparingly.

    Thanks to all of you, again. Mr Bones.
     

    Mr Bones

    Senior Member
    España - Español
    Yes, I know two versions of that expression. The first meaning something like having a lover, and the second one meaning owning money. Bones.
     

    Claire Steiner

    New Member
    English, United States
    Both are OK, but they can be used to indicate different degrees of respect or emphasis, as far as the speaker is concerned. "a little on the ____ side" usually is not an ironic usage, or if it is, it is meant in a kind way - to "soften the blow" so to speak. "a bit on the ____ side" very often is said with a falling intonation (at least in the US) and is the inverse of what it says (i.e. "it's REALLY ____"). It's nearly hyperbole, actually.
     
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