Printable Version
Pronunciation: fês-bê-jit Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: A fussy or persnickety person, someone who worries about and worries others about trifles, a nervous worry-wart.

Notes: Fussbudget is the most common word for this meaning in the eastern US. I've always wondered why we don't hear fusser more; it's out there. Elsewhere in the English-speaking world, fusspot is used. The adjective for today's Good Word is fussbudgety "like a fussbudget".

In Play: Fussbudgety people tend to be overly precise: "Natalie Cladd is such a fussbudget, she changes wardrobes the precise day that the spring and fall equinoxes begin, not a day earlier or later." They also tend to demand neatness: 'Toots' Sweet, fussbudget that he is, drives his wife crazy insisting that everything in the house is in its place and there isn't a speck of dust anywhere."

Word History: Today's word is obviously a compound noun about fussiness, but in an unusual combination fuss + budget. No one has any idea how fuss got into the language, but budget is another matter. It was borrowed from Old French bougette "small sack, wallet", the diminutive of bouge (also boulge) a small leather bag or wallet). French inherited this word from Latin bulga "leather bag, the womb". This word goes back to PIE bhelgh- "to swell", origin of English belly, bellows and billow. It also shows up in Irish bolg "bag". It is easy to see how the sense of budget could migrate from "bag" to "moneybag" to its current meaning in English, but how it ended up in a compound with fuss meaning "person" is a mystery. It may have been influenced by Modern French bougeotte "the jitters, fidgetiness".

Dr. Goodword,

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