Trivia Teaser

Which word can go before CARD, COW or FLOW?


Totes def, obvs


By Miranda

Once upon a time in the West the word 'tote' tended to occur as a gerund, functioning adjectivally to describe the gun-carrying of various baddies and goodies in unvarying saloons and sun-struck streets. Yes, I mean gun-toting cowboys. It may surprise you to know that this sense of 'tote', in both the Collins and Oxford dictionaries, is described as "informal".

I did think that 'toting' was vaguely North American without, of course, making any attempt to verify the assumption. As a result, I've stood out for years against calling a carry-bag or shopping-bag a 'tote'. Wrong again. It's a tote all over the world, though probably still considered informal according to the dictionaries which would prefer the phrase 'tote bag', and is definitely the descriptor of choice for that blessing to society, the online handbag outlet (shoes ones are also a blessing).Marni tote bag

The dictionaries did allow the use of the tote as an abbreviation for 'totalizator', that is the betting system in which returns are based on the amount of money wagered rather than the odds for a particular event.

So the betting meaning (though rather less frequently used) is adjudged to be a 'real' word, while the use of tote meaning 'to carry' or tote, the object in which you can carry things, is still on the fringes of respectability as 'informal' usage.

But now Oxford has permitted the addition to the dictionary of 'totes'. No, not meaning 'several carry bags' or the description of a third party (singular) moving them, but 'totally'!

No, really.

It's been a running joke between my daughter and myself for a couple of years. The 'totes def' of text-speak became an emphatic sign-off in speech, i.e., short for 'totally, definitely'. Well, now it's official. The utterly informal 'totes' is now entirely legitimate (I can't wait to suggest its inclusion as a clue in our crosswords) while the usage that's been around for over a century is still informal.

Still, no complaints. There are lots of other lovely new words also recognised - keep an eye out for 'guyliner', beware of 'virality' and abandon yourself to the 'droolworthy'.

And the 'obvs'? Well, obviously...

Have fun!


13 Responses to

Totes def, obvs

August 15, 2012 at 7:47 PM

I have been using "tote bags"(similar to the illustrated one, but foldable into a small pocket or separate, but attached, pocket) for many decades. I also know the word to tote as meaning to carry.

August 15, 2012 at 7:51 PM

Well, when I said "many decades", I guess it depends on one's point of view. Literally, four or five decades, as I bought the first ones in either the 1960's or 1970's. Cannot remember exactly. Probably the '70's.

August 15, 2012 at 9:23 PM

like yourself, Miranda, I always thought tote was a north american term and never used it myself, nor do I think I will now. A bag is a bag is a bag. Not trying to 'bag' the word tote, but is a bit too casual, don't you think ;) Besides it is the same word for dead in german... Who wants to carry a 'dead' around LOL

August 15, 2012 at 11:19 PM

I do hope it's still there, lol. The ad on this page on the right hand side is for bags, pictured right next to your illustration, Miranda. They're not so much tote-bags, but their proximity is rather apt.

August 16, 2012 at 10:38 AM

never thought of a bag as a tote miranda but each to there own they are just bags to me

kragzy said:
August 16, 2012 at 11:12 AM

I'm always happy to learn more about the source of words - they are fascinating things! However, being a grumpy old pedant, I have trouble accepting the new words of the texting generation (including new words like texting!). I guess I will just be left blissfully behind in an world of beautifully crafted language.

deeneecee said:
August 16, 2012 at 11:30 AM

Back in the 1960's I had "Baby Bags" In the 1970's these gave way to "Tote Bags" Since then I've always had "Trusty Bags. Very useful bags too. I'm not into texting, and leave that to the younger generations. Have no difficulty using the word 'tote'.

no1llama said:
August 16, 2012 at 12:33 PM

'Totes def' makes me cringe to read it, as in my mind, I hear it i the voice of a obnoxious 14 year old girl we fortunately don't see as much of anymore.. I'm grateful for my son who would rather expand his mind by finding an older, and preferably obscure, word to use as opposed to text speak or slang.

August 17, 2012 at 7:28 PM

I sometimes use tote, not meaning a bag, though I'm familiar with it used that way, but to carry, as in, 'I had to tote all my gear upstairs'. At school we use tote trays.

ValK said:
August 20, 2012 at 8:44 AM

The song "Old Man River" (Mississippi) has the lyrics "Tote that barge, lift that bale, get a lil drunk and you land in jail".

August 20, 2012 at 2:06 PM

Valk, did you actualy see the film? When he sings "tote that barge" he was singing about the difficult part of the river where men had to get out and tie ropes to each side of the barge and pull it along from both sides of the river.

August 22, 2012 at 6:48 AM

A barge is a mighty big tote! Our local truckies call their truck trailer a 'dog'. We had our driveway re-gravelled and needed to order a truck and dog. It tickled me when the driver drove in and said he left the dog on the road. Wouldn't tote sound nicer... but I guess a tote is essentially carried by hand.

August 22, 2012 at 7:12 AM

TOTE (Jafa's def): To carry a load by hand (verb) or the receptacle used to carry that load by hand (noun)>>>>>>>>(I'm convinced that tote also implies some degree of burden)