02-03-2005, 11:44 AM
'Fuzz' was a term for the police and thankfully died a squealing death. Where did this term originate? I'm familiar with the etymology of 'cop', 'bobby', 'peeler', and 'pig', but can't find anything on 'fuzz'.
02-03-2005, 12:15 PM
The Word Detective (http://www.word-detective.com/052598.html#fuzz)
"fuzz" apparently was genuine slang among drug users and other underworld types in the 1930's, since it is listed in several glossaries of criminal slang compiled at that time. Unfortunately, no one, even back then, has ever been able to pin down exactly where "fuzz" came from. One hypothesis in American Tramp and Underworld Slang, published in 1931, was that "fuzz" was derived from "fuss," meaning that the cops were "fussy" or "hard to please." This theory seems a bit overly genteel.
Other theories aren't much better. Etymologist Eric Partridge ventured that "fuzz" might have been rooted in the beards of early police officers, or perhaps in the idea of "mold" as a derogatory metaphor for the police. Yet another theory was that "fuzz" arose as a slurred pronunciation of the warning "Feds!" (Federal narcotics agents). None of these theories seems very likely.
My own hunch is that "fuzz" arose as a term of contempt for police based on the use of "fuzz" or "fuzzy" in other items of derogatory criminal slang of the period. To be "fuzzy" was to be unmanly, incompetent and soft. How better to insult the police, after all, than to mock them as ineffectual?
World Wide Words (http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-fuz1.htm)
We are sure that it was originally an American expression, first recorded in the 1920s, and very popular especially in the 1930s, though it never quite took over from cop. In Britain, it was popular in the sixties, though it would now be regarded as dated slang.
One suggestion is that itís a variant pronunciation of fuss, this being something that policemen are prone to do over matters that fussees may consider trifling. Itís also been said that it comes from a mispronunciation or mishearing of ďFedsĒ, that is, federal agents, which hardly seems probable.
Yet a third suggestion has been put forward by David Dalby, a specialist in West African languages, who argues that it comes from the Wolof word fas for a horse, which was taken over in a much modified form into the American slang expression fuzzy tail for a sure bet at a horse race (not to be confused with another usage of that phrase to refer to the very lowest category of vagrant or tramp), from there to a mounted policemen, and so to police in general.
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