By Ricky

2015-10-26 01:10:54 8 Comments

There are a few versions of the Hitchhiker's Guide series, with slight differences here and there. (I'll read anything, by the way, and I do find certain passages from the series absolutely delightful, and I don't care what people might think or if they'll stop saying hello to me when they find out).

The book version that I have includes this passage:

"You're a jerk, Arthur Dent. A complete kneebiter."

In the audio version, the author reads:

"You're a jerk, Arthur Dent. A complete asshole."

The author (or his editor, anyway) must have figured that the word "kneebiter" would puzzle listeners outside of Great Britain (that rules the seas) - (or something) - and that "asshole" (or "arsehole") was more widely and readily understood. Personally I dislike the word "asshole" (or "arsehole") because it lacks subtlety and can mean altogether too many things.

But what the hell is a kneebiter? Or knee biter?


@DJClayworth 2015-10-26 03:30:28

The word "kneebiter" was actually made up for the US edition of the Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It wasn't used in Britain before that (although it may have caught on since the book was published). It replaced the word "asshole" which is considered an acceptable word in Britain, but too strong language for delicate American eyes and ears.

Douglas Adams actually made up a lot of insults for HHGG, because it was first broadcast on radio, which had at the time rather stricter rules than books. Dingo's Kidneys, Holy Zarquon, and Belgium to name but three.

The word "ankle-biter" normally refers to a child, but has also been co-opted by another fabulous British comedy sci-fi writer, Terry Pratchett, as a racist slur against dwarfs.

@deadrat 2015-10-26 01:24:39

A kneebiter is an irritating person, so small and ineffective that he (or she) can't do anything but annoy you with small bites at their level, no higher than your knees.

@tchrist 2015-10-26 01:42:02

So, worse than an ankle biter but not quite so bad as a pillow biter then? :)

@DJClayworth 2015-10-26 03:26:26

Unfortunately not true.

@deadrat 2015-10-26 03:57:21

Manufactured or not, it's clear what it means. And it's used that way, especially by Hitchhiker fans. Check here:

@DJClayworth 2015-12-02 04:32:44

The OP asks for the meaning in the context of the book. Since the adoption of this meaning only comes after the book, it can't be the meaning in the book.

@deadrat 2015-12-02 07:22:36

@DJClayworth You've been thinking about this since the end of October? Take another month or so to consider the difference between meaning and adoption of meaning.

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