The Polite Puss and the Crude Pussy

The word puss has two separate meanings, one in reference to a cat and the other in reference to the face. The origins of puss as a cat appears to have been borrowed from Middle Low German pūs. However, it may have originated from the calling of cats, saying Psss! to get their attention.

Puss used as slang for mouth or face comes from the Irish bus, meaning lip or mouth.

Other lesser known usages of puss include:

  • An informal reference to a woman or girl, used affectionately. I personally would hate to be called a puss because of its similarity to pussy (see below).
  • Apparently the Brits also use it to mean a hare (a.k.a. rabbit). They call pretty much everything by weird names, but we’ll save that discussion for another time.

For those of you with your minds in the gutter, the word pussy also has two meanings, one in reference to a cat and the other to a woman’s naughty bits. Pussy as cat comes from the Old English pusa, meaning bag – which if you ask me, sounds closer to the other definition of pussy. Pusa was also used to refer to anything soft and cuddly – closer to a cat, but you be the judge of that.

Pussy meaning cunt may come from the Low German pūse (meaning vulva) or the Old Norse púss (meaning pocket or pouch). You could also use it as a reference to a woman, if you’re not being very polite.

So go out there and punch that puss in the puss with a pussy. Or not. You know, whatever suits your fancy. I don’t mean to be offensive here, but words tend to twist and turn their way from polite to crude in an instant.

Sources:

Note about photo: This is a picture of my ex-roommate’s cat Gizmo, who is a main coon with really creepy toddler-sized eyes.

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Origins of “Slap Me Silly”

Like most commonly used phrases, no one is sure exactly where “slap me silly” came from, but my amateur sleuthing has uncovered a few possibilities. One thing is for certain: it most likely originates from our linguistically creative cousins in the talkative Down South. I found a few articles about this which also included several other colorful southern-isms. But let’s stick with this one for now.

“Slap me silly” appears to be one of many variations of the more well-known “Slap my ass and call me Sally.” I don’t know who this Sally person is, but she must be into some BDSM! For giggles, here are a few more variations. The common theme among these is the grammatical structure of “[verb] my [body part] and call me [noun or proper noun].”  The phrases are all used to express a reaction of surprise or astonishment. Below are a few of the more creative ones:

  • Paint me green and call me a cucumber.
  • Slap me with bread and call me a sandwich.
  • Pin my tail and call me a donkey.
  • Fry me in butter and call me a catfish.
  • Saddle my back and call me a horse!
  • Well knock me down and steal my teeth!

Some of these are decidedly more amusing than others, but you get the point. For more Southern-isms, check out this article, which will have you rolling, or at least scratching your head.

On a side note, I must also mention Mike Lange, who is an ice hockey play-by-play broadcaster for the Pittsburgh Penguins of the NHL. As an avid Chicago Blackhawks fan, the last thing I want to do is draw attention to the Penguins, but this guy also has some fun variations, from “Get in the fast lane, Grandma, the bingo game’s ready to roll!” to “Scratch my back with a hacksaw!” I stumbled upon Langeisms while searching for “slap me silly” (a phrase he also uses frequently), and there are plenty more of his fun phrases here.

I also happened upon a cool blog during my search that I’ve decided to follow: Strong Language (A Sweary Blog About Swearing).

Thanks for reading, and let me know if there are any other phrases you want to know more about. I am definitely not a professional at this whole etymology thing (but I’m smart enough to use a fancy word like etymology). And I like this stuff because I’m a huge word nerd.

 

Bread & Butter

When I was kid, my mom and I would often walk on either side of a pole and then say “bread and butter” when we came back together on the other side. Today, while we were driving, she brought it up, asking “I wonder where that comes from?” Immediately, I decided to find out.

Turns out this “bread and butter” tradition dates back to at least the 1920s, if not earlier. It is a superstition that if a couple (either romantic or friends) is broken apart during their walk by either another person or another object, they must say “bread and butter” when they meet up again, or they are doomed to have a conflict later on. The thought is that bread and butter go together, and that bread, once buttered, cannot be “unbuttered.”

Although my family has only ever used “bread and butter” in this way, people have also used “salt and pepper” in this superstition.

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Source: Signs and Superstitions Collected from American College Girls, published by American Folklore Society in 1923

Read for it for free online: http://wwwjstor.org/stable/535105