Is That a Wiggly Worm in your Mouth?
When I read "baited," I think of hooks and worms and water and fish.
Bated, the past tense of bate, is actually a contraction of the word abated. Abated itself means, in this context, "To become or cause to become less active or intense" (from Bartleby.com). It comes from Middle English abaten, which is from Old French abattre, to beat down.
Quinion also tells us that the first recorded use of the term "bated breath" is from Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice:
|"Shall I bend low and, in a bondman’s key,|
With bated breath and whisp’ring humbleness,
Say this ..."
Geoffrey Taylor, in the poem "Cruel Clever Cat," apparently had the same "baited breath" pet peeve that I do:
|Sally, having swallowed cheese,|
Directs down holes the scented breeze,
Enticing thus with baited breath
Nice mice to an untimely death.
World Wide Words ("Michael Quinion writes about international English from a British viewpoint") is chock-full of info about words and linguistics. I particularly like Weird Words, which includes blurb, cockamamie, dumbledore (not the one from Hogwarts), and Fred Himebaugh's favorite, synaesthete. Articles are listed here and include "Cyberplague: Help! A Prefix out of Control!" and "Beam Me Up, Scotty! The Linguistic Legacy of Star Trek."
I'm adding this site to my sidebar under "Good Learnin' & Readin'. Enjoy!