Printable Version
Pronunciation: fai Hear it!

Part of Speech: Interjection

Meaning: Phooey! Pooh! Pfui! An interjection of disgust or displeasure.

Notes: Interjections do not undergo normal derivation, so we are not surprised to find this one a lexical orphan. We raise it today in defense of the language against the onslaught of vulgarities used as exclamations these days. Almost all English profanities are used as interjections currently. Fie on them all! Let's return to civility and not surrender English to the vulgarians. Today's word is just the ticket we need for the journey.

In Play: Fie! will sound silly at first, but then everyone will become accustomed to hearing expressions like: "Fie on all the vulgarities that befoul our lovely language and the vulgar people who use them!" Doesn't that sound much better than the other F-word? Fie may be used alone, too: "Fie! Who washed the cat and tried to dry it in the microwave?"

Word History: Today's Good Word has so many possible sources that it is impossible to trace it back to any one of them—a quandary we haven't faced before. Fi was an interjection of disgust in Latin which came down to French. However, fy carried the same connotation in Swedish and Danish, and English could have borrowed it from Old Norse. We know it goes back to a sound similar to German, Czech, and Slovak pfui, which led to English phooey and, possibly, to Yiddish feh. The original source was an attempt to approximate the sound of spitting, a physical act indicating disgust. Does this make sense? Don't say "Phooey!" (I say 'Fie!' to all those opposing an expression of gratitude to Ralph Mowery for bringing up today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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