Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Doozy

Chris asked about the word doozy. Doozy means something remarkable, excellent, and almost beyond belief.

In a car show that Chris was watching on TV, a commentator tied it to the Duesenberg automobile, a car manufactured from 1913 into the 1930s. Built entirely by hand, it was considered one of the finest cars ever crafted. But the time frame is a problem. There is evidence that the word was in play in the 1890s, so it could not originally have come from the Duesenberg family name.

Another theory connects doozy with Eleanora Duse, a famous 19th century actress who first appeared in New York in 1893. She and Sarah Barnhardt were the supreme actresses of their day, models of first-class performance. Her personal life can be called a doozy; she hooked up with a succession of many men and women.

Finally, the Oxford English Dictionary associates it with the slang term daisy, which meant something appealing or excellent. It showed up in 1485 as a term of admiration, and by the mid-18th century, it meant a first-rate thing or person. There is a suggestion that it may have come from a Dutch word meaning to beat with force. In the metaphorical sense, it would thus be something striking.

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


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