Beauty Everyday Life Names

Doozy (Doozie)

Something that is remarkable, either for it’s level of difficulty or it’s exceptional superiority.

There is no definitive origin for the word “doozy” but there are at least three main theories, the oldest of which is that it is an adaptation of “daisy,” which was used in 18th century England as a synonym for something or someone of high caliber.

Example: “That horse is a real daisy.  She’s well worth the price!”

Other etymological sources suggest it derives form the nickname for the Dusenberg, a luxury automobile introduced in the US in the 1920s.

A third possibility is that it come from the nickname given to Italian actress Eleanor Duse, who made headlines as beautiful and talented import to the New York theater world in the 1890s.

The definition has expanded in modern parlance from indicating something or someone superior to also including something that is extraordinary in its negative qualities.

Example:  “That test was a real doozy.  I sure hope I passed.”

3 replies on “Doozy (Doozie)”

This is a modern word that is used primarily in colloquial, slang conversation. More often than not, it describes something as uniquely big, or expectation-surpassing, and more often than not, with a connotation of negative consequence. As in, “that pothole was a real doozy; or, “watch out for that last step, it’s a doozy!”

It’s a word that was rarely written down, and thus rarely a word one would read in a particular context, so its definition was more apt to fluid changes in common usage. My hypothesis is that it began as the “daisy” usage, which came with generally positive connotations, and a particular extra connation of large size.

Then came world superstar actress Eleanor Duse and the Duesenberg Motors Company. The positive connotation was mostly continued with the “Duse-actress” and “Dusie-luxurycar” examples that one might associate with the phrase. Both the actress Eleanor Duse and the racecar/luxurycar brand shared great positive qualities like beauty and luxury, but also qualities of bigness (in the car’s case, its actual sheer size; and in Duse’s case, her enormous fame). The plot-twist in this word’s story is the added negative connotation, which dovetails with setbacks in both stories.

Eleanor Duse quit acting in 1909, and then proceeded to suffer through several sex-scandals, probably the first tabloid scandals for a modern celebrity. The Duesenberg name was itself brought down when in 1932, Frederick Duesenberg, one of company’s founders, died agonizingly after a horrific high-speed car crash. The company folded just five years later. This cemented its negative connotation, particularly in the context of a precipitous fall from grace or glory. One of the few results that will turn up on Google’s ngram for the word from the 40s is a written record of a remark a man made in 1945 saying that another depression after the Great Depression would be “a real doozie.”

There’s another, better explanation. There were lots of Polish immigrants to the US in the very late 19th century and early 20th century. The word for “big” in Polish is “Duzy.” (Spelled with a dot over the z, pronounced “doozheh.”) Much closer in pronunciation and meaning than “daisy” or “Dusenburg.”

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