spaz and Tiger Woods

Dennis R. Preston preston at MSU.EDU
Wed Apr 12 19:33:34 UTC 2006

In the Louisville area use of the 40's and 50's (sorry to one-up you
on age Alice), the etymological connection was clear, and the
full-form "spastic" was the popular usage. "Spaz," a transparent
shortening for those of us who had earlier used the full form, came
much later, maybe even late 50's.


>>I don't know whether anyone has seen or heard of this, but you
>>might want to have a look at the BBC site:
>>Golfer Tiger Woods has been criticised for saying he played like 'a
>>spaz'. Can using the word ever be right?
>>Two things are surprising to me. First, that the word 'spaz' is
>>such a strong term in the UK.  It seems the Brits are going bonkers
>>over this.  Secondly, I've heard this term all my life and I have
>>never heard it in the way that I think Tiger may have meant it. The
>>writer of the article writes " Spaz has become synonymous with
>>useless incompetence..." For me, it means nothing of the sort, but
>>rather has to do with uncontrolled action, almost always
>>excitement.  When I read the signs the pep squad makes for an
>>upcoming game 'Let's spaz out!!', I don't det any idea of
>>incomepetence, but excitement.
>>Any comments?
>To me, "spaz" means klutz, incompetent bozo and the like. It was
>commonly used in this meaning on the playground and the like where I
>grew up outside of NYC in the 50s and 60s. Of course, back then, we
>didn't know the etymology or that spasticity is a neurological condition.
>Alice Faber                                    faber at
>Haskins Laboratories                           tel: (203) 865-6163 x258
>New Haven, CT 06511 USA                        fax (203) 865-8963
>The American Dialect Society -

Dennis R. Preston
University Distinguished Professor
Department of English
15C Morrill Hall
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824
preston at

The American Dialect Society -

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