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Chris -- 2011-03-08

#1 2006-03-05 12:06:31

Registered: 2006-03-03
Posts: 43

"beat" for "bit"

This may be an urban legend, I haven’t been able to confirm it. But if it’s true, it is an example of an eggcorn that became a recognised professional term.

Anyone who has studied acting in America is likely to be familiar with the term “beat”. Scenes are traditionally divided into smaller “beats”, where each beat has its own action and emotional direction. The word “beat” implies that the beats strung together create a rythm for the scene. However, I once tried asking my acting teacher about the etymology of “beat” – where does it come from, what does it actually mean – and the answer I received was rather surprising. Actor training in America was greatly influenced by the teachings of Konstantin Stanislavsky. Stanislavsky’s theories were brought to America by his student, Richard Boleslavsky, who spoke with a heavy Russian accent. Boleslavsky was actually dividing scenes into smaller bits, but his American students misheard and adopted the term as “beats”.

Don’t know how much truth there is to this story, but it seems worth investigating.



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