In this text, I will examine this sentence: The better bets the better bet, the bitter bit bites the bidder’s bid. Let’s first focus on the first part.
The better bets the better bet
The word better may refer to a number of things, but let us limit our interpretation with three versions of the better: Better1 is someone or something that seems actually superior, better2 is someone or something that possesses an advantage in the current system, better3 is simply someone who bets i.e. participates in the system by a wager. It would take too much time and space to enumerate all the combinations of these three versions, so let’s just summarize the movement of interpretation: The perception begins with the immediate image of better1, goes through the symbolic mediation of better2 and finally reaches to the reality of better3. Better1 relies on itself as an ideal image, but it also relies on better2 for its practical existence. Also, better2 cannot subsist by itself, and requires the fantasy image of better1. Better2 runs a self-propagating system driven by the image of better1. However, we realize that the system of better2 is fragile, that it breaks down, and we fall back on the literal interpretation of better3: Being (a) better is ultimately just betting, a wager. Better1 and better2 ultimately rely on better3. They are grounded merely by the self-reference of better3: The fact that people bet that people bet. The system subsists only because people believe that people believe. All advantages and images of superiority stand on a big gamble of self-referential symbolization.
The bitter bit bites the bidder’s bid
Now, the next part. The “bidder’s bid” is obviously someone’s wager in the big gamble of the symbolic order. The word “bidder” looks like a softened (flaccid, limp) version of the word “better”: A “bidder” is merely better3 minus the assertive echoes of better1 and better2. A bid is merely an “attempt” without a guarantee, maybe even without a promise.
How about “the bitter bit bites”? Superficially the word “bitter” looks like a middle ground between “better” and “bidder”, it looks like an attempt to restore the assertive echoes of better1 and better2 that were lost in the reduction of betterment to the mere wager of better3. But the signification of “bitter” is something that hurts your mouth a little bit. Metaphorically it sounds as if you tried to eat “better” but it was too hot and it hurt your mouth a little bit. The “bitter bit bites” signifies a frustration in the oral drive, which also involves speaking and therefore symbolization. The supposed “betterment” thus turns into “bitterment” and “bites the bidder’s bid”, in other words, your attempts fail, and your failures are haunted by the ghosts of better1 and better2 that continually echo in the word “bitter”.