"sissy" during the Civil War?

Geoffrey Nunberg nunberg at ISCHOOL.BERKELEY.EDU
Sat Feb 9 19:36:25 UTC 2013

Margaret Mitchell defended her use of "sissy" in Gone with the Wind by saying that "I picked up that word and the line in which it was used from a letter, dated 1861, from a boy to his father, explaining why he had run away and joined an outfit in another section. 'I just didn't want to join any Zouaves. I'd have felt like a sissy with those red pants etc.'" (http://goo.gl/T7aNe) The OED gives "sissy" from 1846 for "a sister" but dates the use to refer to "an effeminate person; a coward" from 1887. Google Books doesn't seem to have anything for that use before 1885. Is the word older than that or was MItchell wrong?



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