on the fritz--on the friz

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Thu Aug 14 11:07:10 UTC 2014

Previous suggested explanations of "on the fritz," including one by me, are unpersuasive.

Here is a new suggestion--at least I have not encountered it; please correct me if it has been offered before. If there's interest, I may write a longer version with more quotations or references.

"On the fritz" (and "on de fritz") has also been written "on the friz." Consider friz as related to freeze and frozen. The association obtains, whether analyzed as irregular irregular verb forms and/or via J. O. Hallowell's listing "Friz--frozen" as attested in various dialects (1887 v.1 p.382 "All friz out, can't get no groundsel").

Fritz, friz, frozen up, stopped, and the like.

Possibly related uses [some may be of debatable relevance], in addition to those in OED June 2014 and HDAS:

1880 "married or 'fritz to' the dark eyed senoritas"

1886 "a friz nose"

1891 "Fort'nate they [hands] friz to the oars"

[1892 "Jimmy the Bunco" schemes to get a Thanksgiving dinner; the lemonade comes with "friz." "'I dunno as I cares on the friz,' murmured 'the Bunco' thoughtfully. The word bore too close a resemblance to his general state of being."]

1897 "friz up all de creeks"

1901 "getting t' be on de Fritz"

1901 "For everything 't was frizable, that year was friz."

1902 (source?) "Would Santa Claus be on the fritz/ if we never had snow?" [Ironic effect of lack of ice?]

1904 Life in Sing Sing. "Fritzer. Not good."

1905 "He's on the friz." [Baseball player slump.]

1905 "business goes on the fritz."

1905 "good manners done friz up"

1905 four wagons "all to de fritz"

1906 "is he straight, or is he on de fritz?"

1908 "Deep breathing is the thing for you if you are on the friz."

1908 poem, "friz" rhyming with "wits."

1908 Munsey's "our fat leading lady was on the friz"

1909 "show is on de fritz"

1912 "A poor man is friz out these days. Friz out, I say."

1912 "All the religion 'll be friz out of this c'mmunity."

1912 "I may talk on de fritz" [but won spelling bees]

Stephen Goranson


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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list