Posted by Gary Martin on May 15, 2011 at 08:51
In Reply to: On the Fritz posted by Frank Flanagan on May 15, 2011 at 08:45:
: On the Fritz may be a racial putdown, the same way as Scot-free, Get your Irish up, or Jew out of a nickle are; Before WWI Germans were often portayed as bomb throwing anarchists and drunkards (fat, dangerous, large) in Punch and the popular, racist American cartoons and magazines of the day. Once they entered WWI, the Germans were often referred to as Fritzes; hence, anything bad could be called a Fritz, or ON the Fritz. It is hard to imagine that the Germans were discriminated against in American (Ben Franklen, especially, attacked them), but is it true.
There may be a germ of truth in that. The details are wrong though. 'On the fritz' was used well before WWI, so if Fritz was used as a nickname for Germans only after they entered WWI, that isn't the origin. 'Scot free' didn't derive as a slur on the Scots either.