Thursday, July 10, 2008

Fussbudget


A listener asked about the word fussbudget. She speculated that it might refer to a person fussing over a budget, endlessly trying to balance a checkbook, for instance.

Fuss refers to bustling and needless concern about something essentially trivial. The Oxford English Dictionary thinks that the origin was the imitation of the sound of sputtering.

Budget in the sense of a systematic financial plan is one of the latest in a string of meanings that derive from the French bougette, a little leather bag. I wrote about this in my January 24, 2007, blog titled Balancing the Budget.

But an even earlier meaning assigned to the word budget was “a collection of things.” It referred to the varied contents that might be found in a purse or a travel pouch. So if you picture someone fussing around in a purse or leather bag and pawing among keys, coins, antacid rolls, lipstick, and whatever else, you see the probable origin of fussbudget.


Now available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition


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