Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Tue Sep 23 03:37:20 UTC 2003

>Just for the record, the 1962 cite in HDAS is for the sense
>"something difficult to deal with."  The 1964 date M-W reports
>(backed by another cite in HDAS) is for the sense "a stupid

I think the "stupid person" sense -- or rather the sense as a term of abuse
toward a person -- must be the basic sense despite the time order of the
above attestations. Compare "bitch", "bastard", "bugger", "cocksucker",
"motherf*cker", "son of a bitch", etc. -- several of these in HDAS for
example -- in (virtually) the same inanimate application meaning "something

>Is the word a calque?  The evidence I've seen so far doesn't
>seem compelling.  The earliest recorded uses of the word in
>English don't particularly suggest Italian influence, and the
>combination of various names for the human genitalia with "-head"
>to suggest stupidity seems well established in English (note the
>cross-references to analogous terms in HDAS).  In fact, the use of
>such words as terms of abuse denoting  defects of intelligence or
>character seems a fairly common pattern across languages.

I agree.


I see plenty of instances of the conventional "testa di cazzo" (= "stupid
person", essentially = "dickhead") on the Web, but no modern "testa di
cazzi"/"testa de cazi"/etc. I suppose "cazi" = modern "cazzi" is the plural
of "caz[z]o"? Does the pluralization change the interpretation?

[This "cazzo" is the "gotts" in the popular "stu gotts".]

[The etymology of "cazzo" is somewhat mysterious, apparently.]

-- Doug Wilson

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