Tits is the most popular term used to describe a woman's lung hammers (in English anyway) today. And, particularly, "tits", is a term preferred by the majority of English-speaking North Americans. In England (and India) the preference is for "breasts" or boobs. So how did this word come into common usage?
"breast", (Oxford English Dictionary) titt (a variant of teat). But the modern slang tits (plural), attested from 1928, seems to be a recent reinvention from teat, used without awareness that it is a throwback to the original form. Titty, however, is on record from 1746 as "a dialect and nursery diminutive of teat."
Teat: the protuberance on the breast or udder in female mammals, except the monotremes, through which the milk ducts discharge; nipple or mammilla.
[Middle English tete, from Old French, of Germanic origin.]
Used figuratively of persons after 1734, but earlier for "a girl or young woman", usually in deprecatory sense of "a hussy, minx" (1599).
Tit is an old Germanic word for "small" and is used in various northern European languages to refer to small objects, animals, or people, especially girls - for example, titta is a Norwegian dialect word for "little girl". The word is most common in American English in combinations that denote various small birds, such as the titmouse or tomtit. A titman in the 19th century could mean a small or stunted person, as Henry David Thoreau indicates when he calls his generation "a race of tit-men". Tit and titman are still used in New England, mostly by farmers to refer to the runt of a litter of pigs.
From an original account of a 1818 expedition: "The most remarkable heights in any part of the great backbone of America are three elevated insular mountains, or peaks, which are seen at the distance of one hundred and fifty miles: the hunters very aptly designate them the Pilot Knobs they are now generally known as the Three Paps or 'Tetons' ".
The "tits" etymology is certainly the standard folkloric explanation for the name of the "Grand Tetons" mountains - supposedly so-called by early French explorers because, to a bunch of lonely men far from home, they looked like "big tits". (Actually, they were apparently first called "Les Trois Tetons" - "the three tits" - and later renamed "grand".) However, this seems to be the only such usage that is widely known. And there is never any explanation as to who gave them that name, other than "French trappers".
However, "Teton" was also a Westernized version of the indigenous Sioux term for one of the major divisions of the Sioux nation (the Teton Indians were also known as the Lakota Sioux, and included a number of well-known tribes). The Teton Sioux lived across the midwest not far from the Grand Teton mountains. French names in the Teton region were certainly known: a local Indian tribe was - and still is - referred to as the "Gros Ventre" because their culture regarded a "big belly" as a social attribute (as it is in many subsistence-level economies). At the same time, many local names, including Cheyenne (capital of the state in which Grand Tetons Park is located), Dakota, Sioux City, and others come from (usually Westernized) indigenous tribal names. So whether the Teton mountains were named by humorous French trappers, or were named after a major local Indian group is hard to say - there are examples of both in the region.
"As a volunteer for the University of Wisconsin's Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE), I read a western trapper's diary from the 1930s. I was to make notes of any unusual usages or language patterns. My most interesting finding was that the trapper referred to a range of mountains as The Teats, a metaphor based on the similarity between the shapes of the mountains and women's breasts. Because today we use the French wording, The Grand Tetons, the metaphor isn't as obvious, but I wrote to mapmakers and found the following listings: Nippletop and Little Nipple Top near Mount Marcy in the Adirondacks; Nipple Mountain in Archuleta County, Colorado; Nipple Peak in Coke County, Texas; Nipple Butte in Pennington, South Dakota; Squaw Peak in Placer County, California (and many other locations); Maiden's Peak and Squaw Tit (they're the same mountain) in the Cascade Range in Oregon; Mary's Nipple near Salt Lake City, Utah; and Jane Russell Peaks near Stark, New Hampshire." (
Alleen Pace Nilsen: Sexism in English)
Boobs was used in 1929 in the U.S. as slang, probably from the much older term boobies (late 17c.), related to 17c. bubby, perhaps ultimately from the Latin puppa, (literally "little girl"), hence, in child-talk, "breast" (cf. French "breast", German dialect Bubbi, etc.).
A woman's breast. Origin: 1680-90; perhaps an imititation of a baby's cry or of sucking sound.