Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2011-03-08
OED2 only has the latter. The former is very common, however, and arguably is standard English. Any thoughts?
I don’t have the OED so I can’t check, but I’m surprised. “Fit” is seemingly standard and “fill” is rarely heard. A
I have the OED2-CD ROM (searchable), and did not find “fits the bill” in it. The poster below, at the wordorigins.org below, has OED2 online, which includes the entries and draft entries for OED3 – his search didn’t find it either, as the post set out below demonstrates:
Dr Techie(1/10/06 5:25 pm)
I think it’s a variant of “fill the bill”, which the OED2 cites back to 1861, and which it lists as part of the following group of senses [edit: for “bill”]:
8. a. A written or printed advertisement to be passed from hand to hand (hence also called hand-bill), or posted up or displayed in some prominent place; a poster, a placard.
b. An announcement to be publicly read. Obs.
c. A list of the items on a (theatre) programme; hence, the entertainment itself; a group of entertaining items. orig. U.S.
d. to fill the bill: to fulfil the necessary requirements; to come up to the requisite standard. orig. U.S.——The sense could be derived from “filling the bill” in the sense of adding an act or entertainer to a show that is lacking (which the OED seems to give an implicit nod to, by placement) or of living up to one’s advertising.
Modern usage, especially of the “fit” variant, may have been affected by the sense of “bill” as a statement of money due, with the idea that something “fits the bill” if it is adequate to meet the debt.