"wuss" revisited

Gerald Cohen gcohen at UMR.EDU
Sun Feb 13 22:41:51 UTC 2000

  In a Feb. 3 message I suggested that "wuss"  (also attested as "wussy")
may derive from childish "pussy-wussy."  I  came up with this suggestion
after an  ADS-L member drew attention to a  fearful cat-puppet named "Wuss"
(1960's children's show Lorenzo the Clown).

    Since then there have been two developments;

1) Barry Popik has written to the International Clown Hall of Fame to
verify the existence of the fearful cat-puppet "Wuss" on the Lorenzo the
Clown show.  He expects a reply soon.

2) The suggestion of "wuss" deriving from "pussy-wussy" turns out to have
already been advanced, although with no mention of the cat-puppet Wuss:

  Tony Thorne, _The Dictionary of Contemporary Slang_, NY: Pantheon Books,
    "WUSS, noun, American
1.  a weak, feeble person, and by extension a dupe.  A word used by college
students and young people from the 1960s and probably inspired by 'puss',
'pussy' or 'pussy-wussy', used as a term of endearment to a kitten."

---Incidentally, Thorne (_ibid._) then gives a second meaning of "wuss":
   "in Swansea and other parts of Wales, the word wuss is commonly heard as
a synonym for mate or buddy.  This is a shortening and anglicization of the
Welsh GWAS meaning servant.
[example]: 'Hiya wuss.  How's it going?'"

    A few days ago Joan Hall  asked about a little-used term "wooch" (=
servant).  Maybe (and of course it's only maybe) this "wooch" is related to
the "wuss" (=servant) just above.

---Gerald Cohen

gcohen at umr.edu

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