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Fritz

Posted by DGW on April 03, 2002

In Reply to: Opps! posted by Word Camel on April 03, 2002

: : : My coffee maker is "on the Fritz". It takes 30 minutes to fill the flask. But enough of my misfortunes, there is still the discussion forum.

: : : I looked up "fritz" on the American Heritage dictionary which defined it as "A condition in which something does not work properly: Our television is on the fritz". It speculated that it may be from Frederic

: : See link below.

: : : Does anyone know the origin of this? Is it some sort to anti-German slur from the war? I'm just curious and having to wait a long time for my coffee.

: I always forget to check the archives... but at least I have an excuse this morning.

"On the fritz" = "on the blink". "On the [verb]" typically = "[verb]ing", e.g., "on the mend" = "mending", "on the run" = "running", "on the prowl" = "prowling".

These date from well before WW II. ["On the blink" dates from much earlier, in the sense of "blind"/"nearly blind", but the sense may not be continuous.] "On the fritz" existed in 1902.

I see two possibilities:

Associated with electric lighting: when it's out of order there is blinking and "fritzing" = "fizzing"/"sparking".

Associated with human infirmities: "blinking" = "blind"; "fritzing" refers to "[epileptic] fits". The word "fritz" was once a slang term for one who had or who feigned epilepsy, just as "blinky" was applied to the blind or myopic. No doubt this "fritz" is modeled on the German name but it does not refer to anything German, it's just a slight revision of "fits" which was standard in this sense ca. 1900.