• gussy •
Pronunciation: gê-see • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb, transitive
Meaning: (Slang) To dress to the hilt, dress to the nines, to deck out in a striking fashion.
Notes: Today's Good Word is a purely English one, so the usual cast of Latin suffixes, like -ment, -ive, and -ation are not available to it. The noun and adjective are both gussying and, aside from the regular verb forms like gussies and gussied, we have little to gussy it up with. Do be careful to change the Y to an I (i) when you add the English endings, though.
In Play: Today's Good Word is most frequently encountered in the phrase "all gussied up": "I saw Miss Maud Lynn Dresser, all gussied up as usual, gallivanting around the mall this morning." People aren't the only things suitable for gussying: "If the president and his wife are coming to dinner tomorrow night, I suppose I should gussy up the house a bit before they arrive."
Word History: This slang word, heard most often in the United States these days, apparently originated in Australia. At the turn of the century a gussie was an effeminate man, often stereotyped as someone who overdresses. Gussie is the nickname for both Augusta and Augustus, so it is impossible to determine which name lies behind gussie. The sixth month of the later Roman calendar was renamed in 8 BC to honor Emperor Augustus Caesar. Today it is the eighth month. This name came from augustus, a Latin word meaning "majestic, august, revered". Augustus is related to augur and augment. The root apparently meant "increase, improve" four thousand years ago—just what you do when you gussy up today! (Both gussy and gallivant were among my Southern mother's most distinctive words. I dedicate today's Good Word to her memory, Kathleen Bullard Beard of Eastover, North Carolina.)