On the Fritz

Posted by Smokey Stover on October 25, 2005

In Reply to: On the Fritz posted by ESC on October 25, 2005

: : What is the derivation of the phrase, "on the Fritz?" I researched it all day and have only found a general agreement that it first appeared in 1902. Suggestions include it being based on the Katzenjammer Twins but nothing expressed with confidence. Could it have something to do with the Boer War, Yiddish...?

: Here is information from the archives. Maybe someone has something new on this:

OED: "[origin unknown] Phr. on the fritz: out of order, defective, unsatisfactory; to put on the fritz (also to put the fritz on): to spoil, destroy, put a stop to. [citations:] 1903 R. L. MCCARDELL Conversat. Chorus Girl 15 They gave an open air [performance] that put our opera house show on the Fritz. 1906 H. GREEN At Actors' Boarding House 359 What with me ketchin' 'em cookin' spaghetti on the gas an' tearin' up the bedspreads to use fur makeup towels, they're puttin' the place on the fritz! 1924 WODEHOUSE Bill the Conqueror v. 122 Everything's on the fritz nowadays...." SS
: ON THE FRITZ -- Out of order; broken. Fritz is the German nickname for Friedrich and, during World War I it came to stand for Germans in general. Considering America's distaste for Germany at that time, the expression may have sprung from the notion that if there was wrongdoing, the Germans must have had a hand in it. This is speculation, however, and one must note that 'Webster's Third International Dictionary' says of the expression, 'origin unknown.'" From The Dictionary of Cliches by James Rogers (Ballantine Books, New York, 1985).