• tousle •
tæw-zêl • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb
Meaning: 1. Jostle, shake up (especially a woman). 2. To dishevel, disorder, mess up (clothes, the hair, etc.)
Notes: We hear tousled hair all the time, but a tousled woman? Such a phrase might mean "a disheveled woman", but it can also refer to a jostled or manhandled woman. This word is a lexical orphan; not even tousler has made it into a major dictionary.
In Play: The most obvious thing asking to be tousled is hair: "Whenever Leighton became roiled, Shalala just tousled his hair and he would calm down." The other obvious item to be tousled is clothes: "When Rodney and his wife returned home, the baby-sitter opened the door in tousled clothes."
Word History: Today's Good Word was originally the frequentative of an obsolete verb, touse "to mishandle or handle roughly". This word implies an old Germanic word tusian and, sure enough, we find erzusen in Old High German and zausen "to ruffle, tousle" in Modern German. It is related to tease (apart) and its Germanic cousins Danish tæse or tese and Dutch tezen both meaning to "card or comb (wool)". This word apparently was borrowed by Proto-Germanic, for no trace of it can be found outside the Germanic languages.
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