A New Use For the Verb Pitted?

By Maeve Maddox

When I read the following in a movie review, I assumed that the word pitted was a typo for the word pitched in the sense of presented:

In its tireless promo campaign, the film is pitted as a racial comedy…

However, when I did a little exploring, I found numerous examples of the verb pitted being used as an apparent synonym for presented or cast:

In her role as Gabriela in the Dukes of Hazzard movie, Manterola demonstrated her bilingual ability as her character was pitted as Bo Duke’s love interest.

Known for his role on Blue Collar Comedy, where he was pitted as the scotch-drinking jokester, White has twice been nominated for a Grammy.

I hate to see this get pitted as an either/or discussion.

The GCF has been pitted as a key element in reaching an international climate deal on schedule next year in Paris, particularly in relation to the thorny issue of climate finance.

The most common meanings of pit as a verb (including the use of the past participle as a modifier) are derived from the noun meaning “a hole in the ground”:

to put someone or something (like vegetables) into a pit
The pitted potatoes will sprout and decay less and keep more plump [sic] and crisp than those kept in a cellar.

to make small depressions in something
Is your car pitted with lots of small dents caused by a hailstorm?

to put an animal in a pit or enclosure to fight
An unlimited number of cocks are pitted, of which only the last surviving bird is accounted the victor. 

to make a pit stop (automobile racing)
Those competitors who had pitted in the early laps to switch tires could race for a lengthier period of time.

to set in conflict against another
Employees are pitted against each other in positions or tasks that allow only one winner to emerge from deliberate battles, creating many losers.

Used in the sense of setting people or things in conflict with one another, pit is usually used with against:

Indeed, with power divided and ambition pitted against ambition, it is sometimes a wonder that the public service works as well as it does! 

A dispute over money has pitted the son of slain gangster Adolfo “Big Al” Bruno against former bookmaker and friend Louis “Lou the Shoe” Santos.

It is a war of cultures and ideals, of ideas pitted against ideas.

If you find yourself writing the phrase “pitted as,” you may want to rethink your sentence.

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9 Responses to “A New Use For the Verb Pitted?”

  • David Knuttunen

    I’m reminded, again, of how often language change begins as ignorant error. Also what happens when people who don’t read very much begin to write.

  • Nancy R.

    Another use of “pit” as a verb is “to remove the pit/stone/seed from a fruit.” I choose olives that have been pitted, and I pit fresh cherries before using them in a salad. That was what first came to my mind.
    The verb “pitted” being used as a synonym for “presented” or “cast” is ugly-sounding, and I will avoid it. Thanks for the enlightenment, Maeve.

  • thebluebird11

    I second Nancy’s comments!

  • paul

    What is with pitted? You can have pitted prunes where the pit was removed, also pitted prunes with the pit inside. both work. Pitted olives also have ones with pits and others without. Why so much confusion? Pitted cherries with and without pits. and on and on.

  • Jean Kearsley

    You indicated that your initial assumption was that the use of the term “pitted” was as a substitute for “pitched.” I think it more likely that it was an semi-illiterate substitution for “depicted.” In every example you supplied, replacing “pitted as” with “depicted as” magically turns the quotations into English! With real, appropriate meanings!

  • Maeve

    Nancy,
    All good points. For this post, I just wanted to talk about the other kind of pit.
    Paul,
    Yes, the verb pit in relation to the stone in a fruit has both meanings, but it should be clear in context which meaning is intended. For example, Nancy buys pitted olives. (Olives with the stones removed).
    Cherries are a pitted fruit. (A fruit that contains pits.)

  • venqax

    @David Knuttunen: “I’m reminded, again, of how often language change begins as ignorant error. Also what happens when people who don’t read very much begin to write.”

    I just think that needed to be said again.

  • paulon

    Maeve, if i ask you to go to the store and buy me a pound of pitted olives and a pound of pitted cherries, not knowing anything about my personal preferences, what would you bring home? i wanted a pound of olives with the pits in and a pound of cherries without the pits, but from what was said, it isunlikely you would bring me the correct items. Or is this question simply the pits!!??

  • Maeve

    Paulon,
    Yes, it would be in the pits because in the context of shopping, “pitted olives” and “pitted cherries” are understood to be “with pits removed.” In the context of a horticultural description, “pitted fruits” include cherries, which have pits. All comprehension requires some level of inference from context.

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