Waiting with bated breath
Have you ever thought about this idiom? I frequently catch myself waggling an irritated finger at the screen, admonishing an unseen writer that “it’s bated, not baited. You don’t use your breath for fly-fishing, at least, I really hope not.” And then I realize I’m starting to sound like someone’s great-grandmother and quit waggling before I start calling everyone “sonny.”
Bated breath is one of the few remaining modern uses of the word bated, which is a short form of the word abated. I believe (though don’t hold me to this; I haven’t had enough coffee to access memories before 1992, which is the last time I took a class on Shakespeare) that the form bate first appears in The Merchant of Venice.
To abate is to reduce, or end, or suppress. So to wait with bated breath is to wait breathlessly, to hold one’s breath (in hope), or to wait to exhale – to expel a sigh of relief.
I bring this up by way of saying that I know we’ve all been waiting with bated breath to hear about Regina Swint’s fearless combination of military and writing lives. As sometimes happens when one is communicating internationally – right now, we’re swinging between three different time zones; dizzying, yes? – the dialogue is taking a bit of time. We promise, however, to have her interview up for you before the end of the week.
In the meantime, a question for you-all:have you ever read a book which has a moment in which you find yourself holding your breath? waiting for an answer, an action, a pause?
Perhaps as in most things, the first time/s stand shimmering beyond all others. The summer I was 9 years old – waiting to see if Anne ( of course with an e) of Green Gables would remain in the home across the field from her kindred spirit and most powerfully waiting with heart-pounding hope to see if Beth in Little Women would somehow, elude the very obvious ( yes even to me then) foreshadowing and somehow, someway survive. All others were extensions of these initial senses of heightened, heart pounded “waiting with bated breath” expectation. 🙂