[Ads-l] on the fritz, on the friz

dave@wilton.net dave at WILTON.NET
Sun Jun 6 11:21:49 EDT 2021

I recently updated my page on "on the fritz" [ https://www.wordorigins.org/big-list-entries/fritz-on-the ]( https://www.wordorigins.org/big-list-entries/fritz-on-the )
I think these examples are dealing with spelling variants of three distinct lexical items: "on the fritz," friz/froze, and friz/fizz. So, most of these citations are not evidence for "on the fritz."
I'm pretty sure, for example, the Jimmy the Bunco one is "friz" meaning "fizz"; he doesn't like carbonated drinks. That seems to be the context from a larger selection of the text, and "frizzle" is established slang from the period meaning champagne.
And all the "friz up" examples are just dialectal spellings of "froze up." I don't see any connection from these to "on the fritz." The Santa Claus example, for instance, is simply coincidence. References to Santa Claus are likely to be in the context of it being cold; Santa's sleigh requires snow, hence he is "on the fritz" if there is none. And Santa Claus being frozen because there isn't snow doesn't make much sense.
I don't have a preferred explanation for "on the fritz." I think it's squarely in the "origin unknown" category, without any compelling hypotheses to explain it.
-----Original Message-----
From: "Stephen Goranson" <goranson at DUKE.EDU>
Sent: Sunday, June 6, 2021 10:12am
Subject: [ADS-L] on the fritz, on the friz

Reminder, though the brief language log entry
Language Log » "On the fritz" at Sing Sing<https://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=37303>
19 Comments jin defang said, March 18, 2018 @ 12:17 pm I'd always assumed it comes from "frisson," which may itself derive from freezing, as in freeze up

on the phrase gives limited associations with freezing, unlike what one might read on the interwebs, there are more:

Of course “friz” is pronounced in different ways, as attested in the following two different rhymes.

(1) A Sovereign Remedy
Deep breathing is the thing to try if you are feeling slack;
It brightens the lack-luster eye and straightens the back;….
Deep breathing is the thing for you if you are on the fritz;
It drives away the devils blue and sharpens up the wits;….
–Washington Herald
(Feb. 5 1908 Trenton [NJ] Evening Times p.6 col. 3 America’s Historic Newspapers)

(2) Rudyard Kipling still adheres to his opinion of Canada as “Our Lady of the Snows.” He has sent the following skit to Lady Marjorie Gordon, the editor of “Wee Willie Winkie,” a juvenile magazine:
“There was once a small boy of Quebec,
Who was buried in snow to the neck.
When asked: “Are you friz?”
He replied: “Yes, I is.
But we don’t call this cold in Quebec.”
–Albany Journal
(July 23, 1897, Salt Lake [UT] Semi-Weekly Tribune, p. 4 col. F, 19th Century US Newspapers)

I suggest that the personal name Fritz is not the origin of “on the friz/fritz.”

From: American Dialect Society …Stephen Goranson …
Sent: Thursday, August 14, 2014…
Subject: [ADS-L] on the fritz–on the friz

Previous suggested explanations of “on the fritz,” including one by me, are unpersuasive.

Here is a new suggestion–at least I have not encountered it; please correct me if it has been offered before. If there’s interest, I may write a longer version with more quotations or references.

“On the fritz” (and “on de fritz”) has also been written “on the friz.” Consider friz as related to freeze and frozen. The association obtains, whether analyzed as irregular irregular verb forms and/or via J. O. Hallowell’s listing “Friz–frozen” as attested in various dialects (1887 v.1 p.382 “All friz out, can’t get no groundsel”).

Fritz, friz, frozen up, stopped, and the like.

Possibly related uses [some may be of debatable relevance], in addition to those in OED June 2014 and HDAS:

1880 “married or ‘fritz to’ the dark eyed senoritas”

1886 “a friz nose”

1891 “Fort’nate they [hands] friz to the oars”

[1892 “Jimmy the Bunco” schemes to get a Thanksgiving dinner; the lemonade comes with “friz.” “‘I dunno as I cares on the friz,’ murmured ‘the Bunco’ thoughtfully. The word bore too close a resemblance to his general state of being.”]

1897 “friz up all de creeks”

1901 “getting t’ be on de Fritz”

1901 “For everything ‘t was frizable, that year was friz.”

1902 (source?) “Would Santa Claus be on the fritz/ if we never had snow?” [Ironic effect of lack of ice?]

1904 Life in Sing Sing. “Fritzer. Not good.”

1905 “He’s on the friz.” [Baseball player slump.]

1905 “business goes on the fritz.”

1905 “good manners done friz up”

1905 four wagons “all to de fritz”

1906 “is he straight, or is he on de fritz?”

1908 “Deep breathing is the thing for you if you are on the friz.”

1908 poem, “friz” rhyming with “wits.”

1908 Munsey’s “our fat leading lady was on the friz”

1909 “show is on de fritz”

1912 “A poor man is friz out these days. Friz out, I say.”

1912 “All the religion ‘ll be friz out of this c’mmunity.”

1912 “I may talk on de fritz” [but won spelling bees]

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

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

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