Word: cozy, cozies - mystery story or genre

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Thu Sep 27 04:19:36 UTC 2012

Merriam Webster Online has the noun: cozy, (plural cozies):


[Begin definition excerpt]
a light detective story that usually features a well-educated
protagonist and little explicit violence
[End definition excerpt]

I did not see a date or example citation for this sense in the
Merriam-Webster entry. Also, I did not see this sense in the OED. But
the OED has a relevant precursor citation with the British spelling

1958   Observer 25 May 16/7   Cosy little murder mystery.

The following 1970 citation referred to the "'cozy crime' genre". This
might be viewed as a precursor to using the word "cozy" or "cozies" by
itself to refer to a book or genre. The pronoun "he" in the following
referred to Anthony Shaffer who was talking about the play (and later
movie) Sleuth that he authored. The pronoun "she" referred to Agatha

Cite: 1970 November 18, New York Times, With 'Sleuth,' Another Shaffer
Catches Public Eye by Mel Gussow, Page 38, Column 3 and 4, New York.

[Begin excerpt]
He discovered to his surprise - that she was the most highly published
author in the world and he decided, he said, to "send up," or to spoof
her and the "cozy crime" genre, "and, at the same time to use it-to
have my cake and eat it too."
[End excerpt]

The next 1976 cite referred to the ""'cozy school' of mystery
writing". This also may be a precursor to using the word "cozy" or
"cozies" by itself.

Cite: Circa 1976, Newsweek, Volume 87. (Google Books snippet; Data may
be inaccurate)

[Begin snippet text]
Agatha Christie, at the time of her death last week outside London at
the age of 85, was the queen of crime fiction. ... But she was without
peer in the "cozy school" of mystery writing in which plot took
precedence over characterization, ...
[End snippet text]

The following circa 1977 passage contains "the Cozies" and "Cozy
writers" and the term cozies seems to refer to a genre.

Cite: 1977, Murder Ink: The Mystery Reader's Companion, Perpetrated by
Dilys Winn, Workman Publishing, New York. (Google Books snippet; Data
may be inaccurate)

 [Begin extracted text]
Of course, the Doyenne of Coziness is Agatha Christie, and the first
book in the canon is The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Coziness,
however, took another ten years to reach full kitsch, which happened
when Miss Marple arrived in The Murder at the Vicarage. Alternately
titled the Antimacassar-and-old-Port School, the Cozies surfaced in
England in the mad Twenties and Thirties, and their work featured a
small village setting, a hero with faintly aristocratic family
connections, a plethora of red herrings and a tendency to commit
homicide with sterling silver letter openers and poisons imported from
Paraguay. Typical Cozy writers include: Elizabeth Lemarchand, Margaret
Yorke, V.C. Clinton-Baddeley ...
[End extracted text]

The following might be an example circa 1981 of "Cozies" referring to
a genre. The term "teacake Ladies" in the following passage could be
used to describe a set of authors, but "Body-in-the-Library School"
and "the Cozies" seems to describe a genre.

Cite: 1981, The Armchair detective: Volume 14, GB Page 86. (Google
Books snippet; Data may be inaccurate)

[Begin extracted text]
Patricia Wentworth Revisited
By Nancy Blue Wynne
My more sophisticated friends, whose tastes in mysteries run to the
hard-boiled, the police procedural, and espionage, often ridicule me
(gently and good-humoredly, of course) for my old-fashioned fondness
for the "teacake Ladies," as Dilys Winn most aptly christened them.
You may call them by Dilys's name, the Body-in-the-Library School, or
the Cozies; but, by whatever name, they are the mystery writers whose
books conjure up for us a village High Street, the Blue Boar and the
Blue Willow, hedgerows and heaths, vicars and chief constables, and
jam tarts and scones.
[End extracted text]

This exploration was motivated by an off-list email about tracing the
term "cosy crime". The off-list email included the 1970 cite given
above that mentioned "'cozy crime' genre".

In 1937 the Washington Post printed a satirical exchange of letters
between a murder mystery writer named Mathilda Bloomsgate and an
editor at a publisher called Sousa & Billings. The fictional
Bloomsgate was working on a novel she wished to call "Murder in the
Kitchen Sink". She used the phrase "cozy crime". The misspelling
"disptached" is visible in the scanned image.

Cite: 1937 January 17, Washington Post, "Re: Six Murders" MATHILDA
BLOOMSGATE. Per Bett Hooper, Page B6, Column 4, Washington, D.C.

[Begin excerpt]
According to  my  outline, Clarissa is disptached quickly but not very
neatly as you can see by the trail of dried blood leading from the
butler's pantry to the ironing board cupboard. These little homey
details will add a great deal to the story and if I do say it, I think
my book will be the first one to bear the earmarks of a cozy crime.
[End excerpt]

Here is a cite saying "crime will be cosy".

Cite: Circa 1964 or 1965, Films and filming, Volume 11. (Google Books
snippet; Data may be inaccurate)

[Begin snippet text]
MURDER. MOST. FOUL. Directed by George Pollock. Produced by Ben
Arbeid. Screenplay by David Pursall and Jack ... We know at once that
all the crime will be cosy, and none of the deaths indecorous This is
Agatha Christie mythology as ...
[End snippet text]

Here is a cite in November 1970 with the phrase "cozy crimes" in quotes.

Cite: 1970 November 9, Seattle Daily Times, Trials make good reading
by Dorothy Brant Brazier, Page C1, Column 1, [GNB Page 23], Seattle,
Washington. (GenealogyBank)

[Begin excerpt]
The British are famous for their fictional murder mysteries, their
"cozy crimes" and the amazing feats of Scotland Yard, but Rose Best
kept mostly to the important crimes of real life in the "British
Justice" group.
[End excerpt]


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list