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Sartorial Frippery

Posted by Bruce Kahl on July 09, 2003

In Reply to: "I gussed up the recipe by adding" posted by ESC on July 09, 2003

: : "i gussed up the recipe by adding" what is the origin of guss up

: I am guessing that it relates to "getting gussied up," meaning to get dressed up in one's best outfit.

: From Merriam-Webster online:

: Main Entry: gus·sy up
: Pronunciation: 'g&-sE-'&p
: Function: transitive verb
: Inflected Form(s): gus·sied up; gus·sy·ing up
: Etymology: origin unknown
: Date: 1952

Lifted entirely from the Word Detective:

" "Gussied up" is usually described as a native Americanism dating to the early 20th century. The "gussy," it is theorized, was actually a "gusset," a triangular piece of fabric sewn into a garment to make it fit better. Gussets were, in those days, typical of fancy clothes and, by extension, a fitting symbol of sartorial frippery.

The Oxford English Dictionary, however, proposes a different, and I think much more likely, origin of "gussied up." It turns out that "gussie" -- a diminutive of the name "Augustus" -- is Australian slang for an effeminate man, dating back to the early 1900's. It's easy to imagine a rich young dandy named "Gussie" incurring the contempt of turn-of-the-century Australians, so I vote for this theory."