What's the origin of the phrase "spitting image"?

Spitting Image is an expression that lacks a clear consensus as to its origin. The Morris' (Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins) cite one authority who thinks that spit in this context comes from the Anglo-Saxon spittan, meaning "to eject from the mouth," and that the phrase means 'speaking likeness'. He quotes a source dating back to 1602 to support this notion. Harold Wentworth in the American Dialect Dictionary take a different view. He has documented a common phrase in the Southern United States, "He's the very spit of his father ," and suggested that 'spit' is probably derived from 'spirit'. His reasoning is the tendency of Southern dialect to soften or lose the letter 'r'. Thus, spitting image would have originated as the spirit and image. Hey, you be the judge.

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