From The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler:

Duddy lit a cigarette off his butt. "How's Auntie Ida?" he asked.

Is the 'butt' buttocks or the part of a cigarette that is left after it has been smoked?

  • 2
    The first interpretation would imply quite the interesting context... – chepner Apr 29 '17 at 16:22
  • I've heard of people striking matches off their butt[ocks] (eg, when wearing denim), so this confused me for a second. – user32344 Apr 29 '17 at 16:28
  • @barrycarter: that's exactly what I was confused about. I remember seeing something like that in movies. – whitecap Apr 29 '17 at 17:57
  • I think John Wayne did it, but it was more off his hip than his butt. – user32344 Apr 29 '17 at 18:16

It's the butt of the last cigarette that he'd been smoking. It's an action characteristic of chain smoking.

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  • One query - why is "his" correct here, instead of necessarily being "its"? – GoodDeeds Apr 29 '17 at 18:03
  • @GoodDeeds - because it's his (previous) cigarette. – Phylyp Apr 29 '17 at 18:13
  • But wouldn't it then be "Duddy lit his cigarette off its butt"? Wouldn't "a" suggest that it hasn't been referenced before? – GoodDeeds Apr 29 '17 at 18:14
  • 1
    Using its in that context would end up referring to the cigarette in that sentence - which is not the previous cigarette, its the next (new) one. – Phylyp Apr 29 '17 at 18:15
  • 4
    @GoodDeeds I see it as having an ellipsed term: "Duddy lit a cigarette off his [old cigarette's] butt." – Scimonster Apr 29 '17 at 18:59

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