spaz and Tiger Woods

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Wed Apr 12 19:28:33 UTC 2006

On 4/12/06, FRITZ JUENGLING <juengling_fritz at> wrote:
> 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.

I think Tiger *was* talking about uncontrolled action, given the context:

"I was so in control from tee to green, the best I've played for
years... But as soon as I got on the green I was a spaz."

As Alice notes, in American usage "spaz" usually connotes a general
sense of klutziness or lack of social graces. We had a thread last
year about "spaz(z)" where this sense was attested back to mid/late

--Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

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