"sissy" during the Civil War?

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Sat Feb 9 22:08:50 UTC 2013

Mitchell appears to be wrong. Maybe the line really said, "I'd have felt
like sissy [i.e., sister]

On the other hand, by 1861 "sissy" (sister) was so common that it does not
exactly strain credulity to believe that it was being used occasionally in
collocations like, "You act like somebody's little sissy!"

It wouldn't take much after that.

But in the present state of knowledge,  Mitchell appears to be mistaken.


On Sat, Feb 9, 2013 at 2:36 PM, Geoffrey Nunberg <
nunberg at ischool.berkeley.edu> wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Geoffrey Nunberg <nunberg at ISCHOOL.BERKELEY.EDU>
> Subject:      "sissy" during the Civil War?
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> 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?
> http://goo.gl/T7aNe
> Geoff
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list