• 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.