Fizzle. You’ve used the word, I’m sure. I have. Heard it countless times. And we all know what it means.

But I bet you have no idea where it comes from–I sure didn’t!

Fizzle, as it happens, has the same Middle English origins as feisty, from the now-obsolete use of fist that meant…gas. You may or may not recall my post years ago on feisty, and how I will never ever use it for a historical heroine, knowing that it literally meant “stinking and gassy” and was used for dogs, LOL. Turns out, fizzle is indeed related.

From the 1500s all the way up into the 1800s, fizzle meant–brace for it–“to pass gas without a sound.”

Hoo, boy. This is a little boy’s dream word, isn’t it? LOL.

In the mid-1800s, scientists began to use it to describe the noise that air or gas makes when forced from a small aperture…which, as we all know from playing with balloons, bears a certain resemblance to a bodily noise. It was used particularly for the stopping of that sound…you know, when it fizzled out. From there, especially among American college students, it began to take on its metaphorical meaning of “to come to a sudden failure or stop after a good start.” Said college students would use it when their fellows didn’t answer a professor’s questions correctly.

Another word I’m going to have to be mindful of now in my historicals, LOL.

Word Nerds Unite!

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