wussy (1977)

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Mon Aug 15 19:57:46 UTC 2005

On Mon, 15 Aug 2005 14:33:14 -0400, Wilson Gray wrote:

>Yes, I can understand that. But, how would the simple verb be used?
>Could someone say, "I'm pissed at John. He waited till the last minute,
>then he wussed on me"?

Yep, and there are some Googlehits for exactly that usage. One can also
"wuss around", "wuss out of (something) or "wuss into (something)".
Someone or something can be "wussed up" or "wussed down".

Here are two Usenet examples from 1991:

rec.motorcycles, "the `rents get curiouser..." Jan 17 1991
for awhile, i wussed about it.
rec.arts.startrek, "T Tauri stars" Feb 21 1991
Not much difference between this and what the Borg wanted to do, and the
writers wussed their way out of that.

And here's a print example of standalone "wuss" from 1992:

Seattle Times, 13 Sep 1992, p. 20 (Factiva)
"He completely wussed," Preston says, recalling the empty seat reserved
for Crowe.

The alternation of "wuss" and "wuss out" has predecessors in "wimp"/"wimp
out" and "flake"/"flake out". Earlier still is "chicken"/"chicken out"
(the simple verb "chicken" does sound odd to me, but OED and HDAS have
examples from 1961).

--Ben Zimmer

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