To pitch vs. to pit

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Teerex51, Aug 4, 2010.

  1. Teerex51

    Teerex51 Senior Member

    Milan, Italy
    Italian, standard
    Here's a potentially interesting discussion for you.

    Yesterday on the IT-EN forum someone was looking for an English expression to describe a soccer coach inciting internal competition within the team.

    I suggested the expression "pitching one against the other".

    This was promptly discounted as wrong by an AmE speaker who claimed the right expression was "pit one against the other".

    A bit of research revealed the former expression is predominantly used in BE, the latter in AmE.

    I believe, however, these are not merely two different ways of spelling the same idiom, but there is actually a subtle difference between them.

    • To pitch one against the other means "to stir up competition between two people"
    • To pit one against the other means "to dispose two opponents for conflict".

    Or am I completely off track?

    Thanks for your input ;)
  2. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    English - South-East England
    I would have thought 'pit' was much more common even in BrE. (The word has so many meanings that I don't know how to search for statistical evidence about that.) I had to look up the OED to ascertain that 'pitch' was used like this: it's their sense IV. 18. b., and is a little bit younger ('pit' c. 1750, 'pitch' c. 1800).
  3. giovannino

    giovannino Senior Member

    Naples, Italy
    Italian, Neapolitan
    I, too, am interested in the question Teerex asked about pitch vs pit against (as in they were pitched against each other) and would like to find out whethere there is an AE/BE difference.
    In the original thread at IE three AE speakers said they would only use pit in that context, whereas a BE speaker said that pitch is definitely used in that sense in BE.
    My SOED (1993) does record this sense of pitch but labels it as rare:

    19. Set (a competitor) against another in a contest or competition; pit rare

    I wonder whether labelling it as a rare usage is correct, since there are plenty of examples of pitch being used in this sense on Google.
  4. Myridon

    Myridon Senior Member

    English - US
    For what it's worth, I Googled "pitch against each other" and "pitched against each other" and every hit except one on the first two pages of each search was about baseball pitchers which is not the same. The other hit was about poles that were pitched (tilted) against each other.
  5. George French Senior Member

    English - UK
    Once upon a time, in the olden days, arranged fights beween animals were performed in pits. The animals were pitted against one another. There was the cock pit; bull pit etc.

    It still happens....

    It still happens....


    We pit our brains against one another.....
  6. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Here's another BrE vote for "pit":).
  7. Bevj

    Bevj Allegra Moderata

    Girona, Spain
    English (U.K.)
    I vote for 'pit' too :)
    I've never heard of 'pitch' used in this way.
  8. giovannino

    giovannino Senior Member

    Naples, Italy
    Italian, Neapolitan
    Many thanks for your responses. So it's not an AE/BE difference.
    I find it odd that, while the SOED labels this use of pitch as rare, another dictionary from the same publisher (the New Oxford Dictionary of English, 1998) labels it as informal:

    pitch someone/thing against informal pit someone or something against

    By the way, the example in the SOED is from The Observer: The Schneider Trophy...pitched sea planes against each other
  9. Myridon

    Myridon Senior Member

    English - US
    Hmmm... planes pitch, roll and yaw. I wonder if The Observer could have been making a joke. :)
  10. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    No, I don't think so, Myridon:(.

    Here are the OED's citations for "pitch" meaning "set (one party) against another in contest or competition; to pit":
    1801 ‘GABRIELLI’ Mysterious Husband II. 48 My tutor offered to pitch me against the clerk for reading, and against a neighbouring farmer's son for casting accounts. 1889 Daily News 6 Aug. 5/7 We are..weak in comparison with the great fleets against which we shall be pitched when the manoeuvres commence. 1988 Observer 10 July 61/6 One great series of races was the Schneider Trophy Contest..which pitched sea planes against each other. 2004 Independent 17 Mar. (Review section) 12/6 A sweeter Mr Darling, pitched against dark machinations that were the undoing of him.

    It's strange - I would have sworn "pitch" for "pit" was what I have learned in these forums to call an eggcorn....
  11. Teerex51

    Teerex51 Senior Member

    Milan, Italy
    Italian, standard
    I was beginning to look at it the same way myself. Another case of the "chomping/champing at the bit" kind.;)
    It would appear, however, there's more to it than that. And the BE/AmE divide is probably just a red herring.

    Thanks eveyone for pitching in. :rolleyes:

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