"waterworks" = one who cries excessively

Dennis R. Preston preston at MSU.EDU
Fri Nov 11 12:58:20 UTC 2005

"Turn off the waterworks" (stop crying) is in my vernacular from the late 40's.


>Here's an odd transferred sense of "waterworks" I hadn't seen before...
>She [Jennifer Aniston] also takes time to point out she's not the
>waterworks she has been made out to be since her marriage went sour. "I'm
>pegged as a crier, aren't I? I was upset about the Vanity Fair article. I
>had one moment when I got emotional because I hadn't sat down with an
>interviewer since this whole debacle took place. It happened for a second
>and then it was over."
>I thought it might be a nonce form, but I managed to find some similar
>You have been quite the waterworks the past week and last night at
>Sometimes, If a guy is being a real waterworks, it's a turn-off.
>In my old age I'm turning into a real waterworks - the tears first
>appeared as they were flying kites, and it was all downhill from there.
>[at Carrie's very emotional and weepy goodbye dinner - Charlotte in
>particular is being a total weepy waterworks]
>I was a total waterworks because my neighbor and him were friends and
>students together and when he was playing.
>I've been a total waterworks lately.
>Okay, i know that i'ma waterworks but did anyone else cry when Cher died
>on wolf's rain?
>I get that from my Mom; she's a waterworks.
>I suppose if a modifier like "total" or "real" precedes "waterworks" it
>sounds a bit better, but it still seems strange. I'm not sure what
>agentive form I'd prefer ("waterworks factory"? "waterworker"?). For me,
>"waterworks" is too idiomatic (only appearing in set expressions like
>"here comes the..." or "turn on the...") to take on any extended meanings.
>--Ben Zimmer

Dennis R. Preston
University Distinguished Professor
Department of English
15-C Morrill Hall
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824-1036
Phone: (517) 353-4736
Fax: (517) 353-3755
preston at msu.edu

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