What comes with boobs and tits?

I considered checking the collocations for boobs and tits in my post yesterday, but I thought that would be unnecessary padding. However, the topic has come up in the comments, so I can’t resist checking to see what words occur most often near the words in question.

To start with, instead of limiting to novels by authors with names I can check, I checked the whole Corpus of Contemporary American English. I checked for words that occur one or two places before or after each word (two places after because it could be “her boobs were truculent” and I wouldn’t want to miss that truculent; two places because sometimes there are two adjectives before). This doesn’t give any distribution by sex of author or by genre, but it gives a general feel for it.

For breasts, the most common collocates were her (3586), my (831), chicken (708) (remember, this includes all genres, not just novels), between (262), small (201), against (169), large (150), big (142), skinless (132) (I hope you realize this one is from recipes), full (127), and bare (102).

For tits, the most common collocates were her (121), big (58), my (57), great (33) (this could include birds), ! (29) (yes, they count exclamation marks), ass (21), tits (12) (yes, as in “tits, tits, tits!”), nice (11), fake (10), and blue (10) (this is for the ornithologists, not for sci-fi fans).

For boobs, the most common collocates were her (107), my (99), your (68), big (43), bigger (19), fake (15), huge (8), and having (8).

Then I turned to my data from the fiction books. The results give me the 10 words before and 10 words after each hit. I did a quick count of hits for each of several text strings in the results. This is within 10 words now, not within 2, but it’s a smaller set of results to work with. I didn’t do a proper collocation search, just a count of specific text strings. Still, the results have some interest. I’ve calculated percentages for them so you have a sense of the actual proportions.

For breasts, here’s what I found:

hands 108 7.8%
small 96 6.9%
nipples 81 5.8%
ass 72 5.2%
large 67 4.8%
bare 54 3.9%
soft 49 3.5%
big 46 3.3%
naked 39 2.8%
nice 20 1.4%
bodice 14 1.0%
chicken 11 0.8%
ripe 11 0.8%
fake 2 0.1%

For tits, here’s what I found:

big 32 19.0%
ass 15 8.9%
small 8 4.8%
nice 3 1.8%
nipples 2 1.2%
hands 2 1.2%
fake 2 1.2%
bare 1 0.6%
chicken 1 0.6%
naked 1 0.6%
soft 1 0.6%

For boobs, here’s what I found:

big 17 11.8%
ass 9 6.3%
large 4 2.8%
fake 4 2.8%
bare 3 2.1%
small 3 2.1%
soft 1 0.7%
nipples 1 0.7%
nice 1 0.7%

Remember, these are occurrences within 10 words of the hit, not within 2 words. So we see, among other things, that big shows up very often near tits, about half as often near boobs (though it’s still the most common of the bunch there too), and not much near breasts. Small is common with breasts and tits but not so much with boobs. Hands are not seen often near tits or boobs but quite often near breasts. Ass shows up near tits about 9% of the time, near boobs about 6%, and near breasts about 5%. And boobs are most likely of the three to have fake, but the sample size is too small for that to be significant. There were also 3–4% of bare and naked near breasts, but only one of each near tits; there were 3 bare near boobs but no naked at all.

And yes, there is one instance of chicken near tits. It is from Mother of Pearl by Melinda Haynes, and the sentence in question is “Relics that held as much hope of future service as tits on a chicken.” (I would just like to say that chicken breasts have done me great service many times in my life. But, as they do not have nipples, I suppose they don’t count as tits.)

This is data, and make of it what you will. A lot more research, including on other corpora, can be done (pay me). My next project on this will be to dig into the cultural history of boobs versus tits and how it happens that boobs is apparently a mainly feminine-speaker usage. There’s a clear apparent phonaesthetic angle (tits sounds like tips and would seem to connote pointiness and nipples, whereas boobs seems to convey roundness and pendulousness), but I’m sure there’s more than just that to be uncovered.

(And no, I have not been keyword stuffing to troll for search results. How dare you suggest such a thing.)

8 thoughts on “What comes with boobs and tits?

  1. Keith April 6, 2018 / 7:10 am

    Your phrase concerning truculent boobs made me think of the comparison with “two rabbits fighting in a bag”.

    I’m surprised that there were no combinations of “tits” with “breasts” among the non-fiction books; I would expect ornithologists to compare the plumage on the breast of one species of tit with that on the breast of another species.

    Like

  2. Heide April 6, 2018 / 10:45 am

    “(And no, I have not been keyword stuffing to troll for search results. How dare you suggest such a thing.)” HA HA! What I *really* want to see is what kinds of ads Google starts sending your way after your exhaustive research on this important topic. 🙂

    Like

  3. Duncan April 6, 2018 / 10:47 am

    “two places after because it could be “her boobs were truculent” and I wouldn’t want to miss that truculent”

    No-one wants to miss a truculent boob.

    Like

  4. djw April 6, 2018 / 12:22 pm

    My ex routinely suggested chicken tits for dinner. He’d even cook them, so I never argued.

    Like

  5. Ron April 6, 2018 / 8:05 pm

    Any sense of author/speaker/character by gender? Anecdotally, I find that women say “boobs” and men say “tits” but I can’t say my sample size is large.

    Like

    • Ron April 6, 2018 / 8:06 pm

      Oh good lord never mind. Just saw the previous post. I’m such a tit.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. CGHill April 13, 2018 / 1:23 am

    Then there’s the variant spelling “bewbs,” which I have never seen or heard used by a male of the species.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s