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Posted: Sat Mar 19, 2005 5:50 pm
by Dr. Goodword
• feist •

Pronunciation: fayst

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: A small, scrappy dog with a snippy attitude.

Notes: Feisty people are often admired for their feistiness: they are a bit touchy and quarrelsome, with a quick temper but show pluck in the face of daunting odds. Often they are considered of smaller stature than others. Feisty means "like a feist", but what is a feist? We thought you might like to know before this word disappears forever. The last place feist was used was in the southern US, so the adjective represents a contribution from the South to the general English vocabulary.

In Play: There may still be old folks down South who use today's word like this, "I would sell my dog to Clara but I don't think a feist like him would get along with Clara's cats." But if people may be feisty, they may be metaphorical feists: "Ida Claire picked up a feist on steroids who picks fights with any male who looks at her twice."

Word History: This good word represents a variant spelling of fist, pronounced [fayst] just like feist, and is a reduction of a phrase fisting dog. This expression comes from Middle English fisting "breaking wind", inherited from the Old English fisting, with the same odoriferous meaning. The semantic trail apparently began pointing to a dog far too old to be feisty but expressed his spirit otherwise. The meaning changed rather radically over the years. At one point it was a disparaging name for a lady's lap dog but ended up referring to a small, spirited dog.

Posted: Sat Mar 19, 2005 6:02 pm
by tcward
I reckon folks had to be pretty careful with their pronunciations back then, otherwise breaking fast might be transformed rather unfortunately into breaking fist...

-Tim :lol:

Posted: Sun Mar 20, 2005 2:46 am
by KatyBr
So if one stole something from you and it made you really mad, and you stole it back it could be a feist Heist?


Posted: Sun Mar 20, 2005 10:48 am
by Brazilian dude
I like this word, but I prefer pugnacious. My host father used to say it all the time to show culture, I guess. And then he would go on and on about pugnacious coming from Latin pugnare, and so on. I guess he did that because he was already old and he didn't know that he had already said that. Or maybe he wanted to make sure that all the people in the house got that word right.

Brazilian dude