Saturday, September 25, 2004

What's a "Doozy"?

Yesterday I used "doozy" in a post. If you're too young to know what a "doozy" is, here goes:
It was John Ciardi, I think, who suggested that doozy (as some dictionaries prefer to spell it) had something to do with the famous Duesenberg automobile, a car named after the brothers who developed it. Certainly the vehicles were known as Duesies in the 1920s and 1930s. But...the noun doozy was already well established.

[R]eference books, especially the Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang, suggest it first appeared about 1903.

You might think etymologists are slipping their mental gears if I tell you that they’re fairly sure that it comes from the flower named daisy. But that was once English slang, from the eighteenth century on, for something that was particularly appealing or excellent. It moved into North American English in the early nineteenth century....

Experts think that that sense -— which was still around at the end of the nineteenth century -— might have been influenced by the name of the famous Italian actress Eleonora Duse [pronounced "doo-zay": ED], who first appeared in New York in 1893. Something Dusey was clearly excellent of its kind, and it is very likely that it and daisy became amalgamated in people’s minds to create a new term.

(Source: Questions & Answers.)
So here's Duse and a Duesie: