kittly-bender n, usu pl Also kettle-de-bender, kiddledee-bender, kiddly-~, kidley-~, kitty-bendler; by folk-etym, kidney-bender [Cf SND kittlie adj. 3 “difficult, dangerous . . precarious”] esp MA, PA old-fash Cf bender n 1, tickly-bender n
An area of yielding or broken ice on a body of water; also fig; hence v phrr run kittly-benders, play at ~ to run or skate over such ice as a sport.
1831 Finn Amer. Comic Annual 138 ceMA, Thanksgiving Day at length arrived, ushered in by . . a slight ‘flurry of snow,’ just deep enough to make the Boston Frog-pond more amusing to the boys, as they glided over the ‘kiddledee-benders.’ 1854 (1969) Thoreau Walden 353 ceMA, Let us not play at kittlybenders. 1855 N&Q 11.485 sePA, The boys in this country call ice which undulates beneath the foot of the skater “kidleybenders.” 1857 (1949) Thoreau Jrl. 9.238, I have seen my auditors standing on their terra firma, . . or perchance even venturing out a step or two, as if it were a dangerous kittly-bender. 1858 in 1870 Dallas Letters 2.39 sePA, This will enable our ministers here to walk . . as on thick ice, not as heretofore on what boys call “kiddly benders.” 1860 Atlantic Mth. 6.671, There are still “busters,” as in our young days, and the ardent youth upon floating cakes of ice “run bendolas” or “kittly-benders,” or simply “benders.” 1871 Hale How to Do It 46 ceMA, You will, with unfaltering step, move quickly over the kettle-de-benders of this broken essay. 1889 Douglas Can Love 251, When I was a girl, we used to skate on the ice when it was rotting, and under us, it would roll like small billows. . . We called those ice billows, ‘kidney benders,’ (I don’t understand the meaning of the term) and if we should go slow over them, we would certainly break through, but it was safe to cross them rapidly. 1968 DARE (Qu. B35, Ice that will bend when you step on it, but not break) Inf DE3, Kitty-bendler [kɪtɪˈbɛndlɚ]; PA78, Kidney-bender. [Both Infs old]