Spitting Image vs. Splitting Image

Shopping at C-Mart Supermarket

Spitting image (noun)- exact double of another person; someone who looks very much like someone else

Our Christmas presents this year to Aaron’s nephews consisted of an invitation to Boston and round-trip commuter rail tickets. This past weekend, we picked them up from North Station and headed over to Chinatown. We grabbed bubble tea and later went to a dim sum place across the street. Perhaps because of the lunar new year, there was a long wait at the restaurant. Since we all needed some air and space, the four of us walked around the Boston Common and Public Garden (note: both are singular). Some locals would bluntly correct tourists who refer to it as “the Commons.”

We thought the boys would love the dim sum experience, and they did. They quickly got the lay of the land- be assertive when carts stopped at our table, leave the lid of the teapot ajar to signal a refill, and scope out the freshest sesame balls straight out of the kitchen. This pastry is made from glutinous rice, filled with red bean paste on the inside, and coated with sesame seeds on the outside. Not overly sweet was the reason why they are so delicious (and that we were able to eat nine of them).

Aaron’s nephews are fraternal twins, but it’s never been easier to tell them apart. They are no longer spitting images of each other. I used to say “splitting image” with a picture of a piece of split wood and its mirroring pattern in my head. According to Phrase Finder, “spitting image” originated when George Farquhar used it in his comic play Love and a Bottle, 1689:

“Poor child! He’s as like his own dadda as if he were spit out of his mouth.”

Interestingly, other languages have their own versions of this phrase. French – “C’est le portrait craché de son père” (He’s the spitting portrait of his father). Norwegian – “som snytt ut av nesen paa” (as blown out of the nose of). It’s not that I’m unsatisfied with the explanations. I simply prefer thinking about splitting a crunchy and chewy dessert instead of spit and snot when using this phrase.

Winner: splitting image.

The Boston Common Frog Pond
The Public Garden Duck Pond
Sesame balls with red bean paste filling

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