Thursday

The History of Tussie-Mussie

Have you heard of the infamous and misunderstood tussie-mussie? Currently thought of as a nosegay, or compact bouquet of flowers and herbs, it has a colorful, if obscure, past with hilarious connotations. In light of its modern bridal and festive associations, I really couldn't pass on the irony.

The language of flowers, having robust historical and literary antecedents, includes this little gem, or a form of it (tuzzy-muzzy), as the possible title of a vulgar 19th Century songbook espousing portions of the feminine anatomy best left to the imagination.

I suppose most things can be traced to some possibly shady origin, and flowers, frequently the subject of speculation about their colors, features, and uses, are no exception.

The part that entertains me is that site after site that I scanned this afternoon was overrun with soft pastels and florid text interspersed with the terms "quaint" and "lovely" and "delicate", when, for longer than a generation, tussie-mussie was a phrase shunned by polite society as too crude to utter in mixed company.

It looks like we've recycled and refined the term for a new age. So here's to tussie-mussie, hugger-mugger, and their ilk. May we all manage to reinvent ourselves as successfully.

If you want more information about this colorful hyphenated word, please visit World Wide Words, a site that is well worth a visit if you are a lover of language.

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