-SS -> -ST?

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Dec 4 03:21:15 UTC 2006

At 12:43 PM -0500 12/2/06, Alison Murie wrote:
>  >Well, that is certainly the way that my Texan grandmother pronounced
>>it: "fice." The way that she used it was to mean, descriptively of a
>>person, "small, but tough and quick to anger," i.e. something like a
>>"banty rooster" in disposition. It was many years before I discovered
>>that "fice" had anything to do with any kind of dog. Before that
>>discovery, I considered a fice to be something like an elf or a
>>brownie, just some kind of small, but ass-kicking, mythical being. The
>>use of this term in my family died with my grandparents.
>>BTW, is / was there really a breed of dog known as a "fiest" / "feist"
>>in existence?
>  ~~~~~~~~
>I remember its being used in M.K.Rawlings'  /The Yearling/, set in
>backwoods Florida, as a designation for a dog (which I interpreted to mean
>more or less what Wilson's grandmother intended as characteristic of the
>breed).  I can't now remember whether it was spelled "feist" or "fice,"
>since I have seen both in various other contexts.
The nice thing about feist dogs (whence _feisty_) is their etymology.
The Watkins AHD4 dictionary of Indo-European roots (citing Pokorny)
notes that their name derives from ME _fisten_ 'to fart', from Gmc.
*fistiz, 'a fart', and is (given Grimm and all) cognate with Fr.
_petard_, as in "hoist on one's own ____", which are so-called
because of the sound, original source being Proto-Indo-European
*pezd, in all its lovely onomatopoetry.  (No apparent relation to Pez
dispensers, though.)


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