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Chintzy

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Chintzy

Postby Dr. Goodword » Wed Nov 20, 2013 12:40 am

• chintzy •


Pronunciation: chint-see • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Made of chintz. 2. Gaudy, cheap, tasteless. 3. Stingy, miserly, niggardly.

Notes: Remember that this word is spelled with a Z, not an S, although S would make more sense, given the original plurality of the word (see Word history). Chintziness is the noun from the adjective, and chintzily is the adverb.

In Play: While the meaning of the noun has risen again from the ashes, that of the adjective has continued its precipitous slide from "tasteless" to "cheap" to "stingy": "Maude Lynn Dresser arrived in a chintzy dress," today would more likely mean that it was camp and cheap than made from chintz. The current end of the semantic trail for chintzy is "stingy": "Don't be so chintzy, Monroe; pay the extra dollar for the suit and get the spare pair of pants."

Word History: Chintz was originally the plural of chint, Hindi for "spotted, colored", derived from Sanskrit chitra "variegated". Chintz was a hand dyed cotton cloth (calico) made in India, glazed, with a floral print. Chintz was originally used as bedcovers called palampores; later dresses and other home decorations were made from the cloth. When Europe developed its own chintz industry, the material remained expensive and fashionable. As time drove relentlessly on, however, the patterns became more garish and repetitive, the size of the flowers diminished, and the glaze was omitted. Ultimately its was used for feed sacks. At this point chintzy went out of vogue, and the adjective made a sharp turn down a new semantic trail the end of which is what we have today. Chintz itself, on the other hand, is again today such a fashionable material that the Wall Street wives dubbed the decorator Mario Buatta, known for his use of chintzy designs, The Prince of Chintz.
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Re: Chintzy

Postby David Myer » Wed Nov 20, 2013 6:05 am

Well we have a couple of interesting things here. One related to the word, the other not.

1. The third meaning is a new one on me. Perhaps I am not enough well read to have encountered it, but more likely it just isn't used that way in Australia or UK. I have never come across chintzy meaning 'miserly'. I wonder if anyone has examples, outside of USA, of it being used with that meaning?

2. Why is stingy spelt stingy rather than stingey? The g is soft as in the second g of garage. Without the 'e' it reads as a hard 'g' as in the first g of thingymagib or sometimes thingymabob. Stingy surely means ouch as in a stingy pain?
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Re: Chintzy

Postby Philip Hudson » Thu Nov 21, 2013 4:17 am

Folks in the American hinterlands never heard definition three either. It looks like a malapropism for chinchy, but the dictionary says only red necks say chinchy.

As for hard or soft g, I see David's point with stingy. We don't pretend to talk phonetically. Garage is pronounced differently in America than in the rest of the English-speaking world. Most Americans say it in one syllable and make the last g sound more like a j. Some of us try to pronounce it the way the French do and so the second g is, well, French-like. The English put the accent on the first syllable and pronounce the second g like a j..

I can't find an adjective made from the verb/noun sting. I use it as an adjective but can’t spell it. It rhymes with thingy, a word not in a formal vocabulary, but good for describing something not worth describing.
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Re: Chintzy

Postby Dr. Goodword » Thu Nov 21, 2013 10:45 am

I'm from the American South and the third meaning is commonplace down there. It does occur only in American dictionaries, though, so I thought I should include it on that basis. In fact, it may result from a confusion of chintzy and stingy.

As for the absence of E in stingy, the rule that it should follow G and C if they are soft, is not a rule at all but a guideline. I have expressed my opinion on this guidelines elsewhere. Stingy, grungy, spongy, pudgy (vs. tangy, springy, dingy) are just proof of the Guideline Theory.
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Re: Chintzy

Postby Slava » Thu Nov 21, 2013 11:06 am

Having grown up in the North-East, I have never come across chintzy as stingy. However, I can see how it could easily come to be. The second definition is for "cheapness" in something. Cheap has various meanings, among them being stingy or miserly. Folk etymology, I'm sure, but it does work.
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Re: Chintzy

Postby David Myer » Thu Nov 21, 2013 6:42 pm

Most interesting! The Good Doctor himself introduces the word 'dingy' suggesting it has a hard g. Is that dingy as in dark and gloomy with a soft g, or dingy with a hard g that you tow behind a bigger boat and that any English person would spell dinghy? I must say I can't see why anyone would drop the e in spongey. Surely the purpose of spelling and punctuation is to convey meaning in writing. My 'rule' (or is that a guideline?) is "in case of difficulty or ambiguity, forget what is correct. Do what will be most easily understood" So for example, a hyphen should in my view, go in co-operate or co-ordinate. No dictionary that I've seen puts a hyphen in, but the hyphen makes it easier to read - it's co-oper..., not cooper. So with sponge, it is better to spell the adjective spongey. Otherwise it may be read as spongy as in pongy (smelly). Same for stinge, grunge and pudge. Pudge is less critical because the preceding d softens the g anyway. I am quite happy with edgy, for example. But there is nothing gained by dropping the e when they become adjectives, so why drop it?
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Re: Chintzy

Postby Perry Lassiter » Thu Nov 21, 2013 7:39 pm

I have heard both the third meaning of chintzy and the words spelled chinchy. In Louisiana more frequently I hear chinchy.
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Re: Chintzy

Postby MTC » Thu Nov 21, 2013 10:34 pm

About the third sense of "chintzy," I too have heard it used in the Southern U.S.

I applaud the spirit of David's self-imposed guideline, "in case of difficulty or ambiguity, forget what is correct. Do what will be most easily understood." This, of course, leads to orthographic anarchy, but used sparingly, not just for de minimis improvements, the guideline leads to better-understood spelling. Initially, it may also lead to widespread confusion and nervous breakdowns among spell-checkers. In the meantime, adherents of this approach must be ready to endure the anger of an outraged orthodoxy, people like Garner, that is, who seem to delight in publicly flaying those who step out of line with "invariably inferior usage."

And less controversially, Wordsmith did a series on fabric metphors which included "chintzy." Other words in the series are pinstriped, dirty linen, flannelmouth, and crapehanger.
See (http://wordsmith.org/words/chintzy.html)

Two of my personal favorites not listed are fustian and bombast.
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Re: Chintzy

Postby Philip Hudson » Fri Nov 22, 2013 2:28 am

I have just read a great book on the history of Americanisms. It was written by Alistair Cooke about 30 years ago: “The Making of the American Language". It is definitely true that "England and America are two countries separated by the same language."

One can include the other English speaking countries with England. Well, perhaps not Canada. Whoever says that English is the native language of many people in India is way off base. What they speak is nothing like any other English I have heard. An Indian who learned English in India is almost unintelligible to me. Everything, by their accent, is spoken in the imperative mode. On the other hand, an Indian who learned English from an American teacher is easy to understand.

I do not agree that spelling something the way you think it should be spelled is acceptable. That path leads to madness. Spelling reform can never work for English. We have a vast body of recorded English. Should we have spelling reform, one would have to learn two sets of spelling to read documents written it the past and present. If everyone went his own merry way, we would not be able to read anything except what we ourselves wrote.

Spelling reform is similar to changing to the metric system. Americans are being dragged kicking and screaming into metric measurements. This is all because a bunch of Frenchmen tried to decimalize measurements and based it on a mistaken measure of the circumference of the earth. Also they believed that the decimal system was in some way natural (faulty logic, the binary system is more logical and the Fibonacci sequence is most natural.) We have the decimal system because we have ten fingers. That is the only reason and it is not even tolerably correct. Octal and hexadecimal also win out over decimal.
The metric system was taken on by the French by fiat and other countries took it on because it appealed to their logic (faulty logic) or there was no serious competitive measure. The English- speaking world would not, at first, kowtow to the French edict, because we had a perfectly acceptable measurement system, including Fahrenheit temperature. Now everybody but the USA seems to have fallen for it. Even we have dual measurements. We have soft drinks in liter bottles but milk in quart or gallon bottles. Then, to cooperate with international trade, we have to make things to be exported in metric. I have two sets of wrenches, metric and English.

I would say the whole thing was a Communist plot except it predates Communism.

Well, c'est la vie dans la voie rapide – pardon my French. Or as the innkeeper said in Caxton’s linguistic treatise on the English language, “I have no Frensche.”
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Re: Chintzy

Postby MTC » Fri Nov 22, 2013 8:14 am

Philip's melodramatic "That path leads to madness" lead me to
Shakespeare:

KING LEAR:
Thou think'st 'tis much that this contentious storm
Invades us to the skin: so 'tis to thee;
But where the greater malady is fix'd,
The lesser is scarce felt. Thou'ldst shun a bear;
But if thy flight lay toward the raging sea,
Thou'ldst meet the bear i' the mouth. When the
mind's free,
The body's delicate: the tempest in my mind
Doth from my senses take all feeling else
Save what beats there. Filial ingratitude!
Is it not as this mouth should tear this hand
For lifting food to't? But I will punish home:
No, I will weep no more. In such a night
To shut me out! Pour on; I will endure.
In such a night as this! O Regan, Goneril!
Your old kind father, whose frank heart gave all,--
O, that way madness lies; let me shun that;
No more of that.

No mention of "chintz" or spelling reform, however.
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Re: Chintzy

Postby Perry Lassiter » Fri Nov 22, 2013 4:19 pm

Two metric or not to metric, that is the question? Spare me from having to memorize the first 26 Fibonacci numbers. From the standpoint of a pedestrian non-mathematician, the metric system is much simpler because of the decimal point. For example, it is much easier to write 1.5 hours then one hour and 30 minutes, 90 minutes, or even an hour and a half. Computers, of course, are based on binomial and hexadecimal, and many people learned the hexadecimal system for programming. Philip, I will buy your comments for heavy mathematical work, but not for daily use.
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