Friday, December 22, 2006

Hump This: Pussyfoot

Hump This is a (quasi-)weekly Friday feature where you, the WordHumper reader, choose which lucky word gets humped back to the stoneage (or at least to Proto-Indo-Europa). Today's word comes from BL in New York who writes:
I would like for you to look into the origins of the word "pussyfoot." And please don't half-ass it.
Personally, I have a feeling BL knows EXACTLY where this word comes from being that it obviously means to move stealthily like a cat, but she (or he...I don't give away the identities of WH readers) gets off on using words that, shall we say, have multiple shades of meaning.

I noticed that per the OED the first recorded use of pussyfoot is from 1893 in reference to "Men who were beginning to walk pussy-footed and shy at shadows." Men who "shy at shadows" strike me as being pussies (in our modern cowardly sense of the word). This is interesting because again, per the OED, it seems that the word pussy, in both the anatomical and effeminate senses, had a small usage boom in the latter half of the 19th c., which ties in nicely to the coinage of pussyfoot. Thus, it seems possible that the advent of pussyfooting may not have been solely dependent on feline gait, but rather the word contains a hint of pure, unadulturated pussiness.

If you have a word you'd like humped please email it, along with your location, to wordhumper.


:: posted by David, 9:06 AM


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