Wednesday 6 November 2013


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  1. I understand what both you and Phiippa Perry are saying. Since English is a nuanced language, I think the discussion's a good-faith, healthy one. Do I think "feisty" has negative overtones? Yes, of course! I would be insulted if someone described me as such.

    My husband's in industry. HR literature stresses certain instances: an insecure woman is a man learning the ropes; a feisty woman is a determined man; a chatty woman is a gregarious man; a nosey woman is an interested man . . . and so on.

    Statistics released today say a woman in Texas, for example, earns 79 cents to a man's dollar. This inequity won't disappear until a man and a woman are equally feisty or affable. I'm all for reaching out -- to crack the glass ceiling!

  2. Huh, I'd actually never given much thought to the connotation of "feisty" until reading this post. Now, I can't stop thinking about it and realize that every time I've been called feisty or have dubbed someone feisty, there have been - perhaps unintentionally - levels of negativity :-/

    And yet, there is a part of me that isn't offended. Because feisty, to me, suggests that I'm riled up about something. Uncomfortable or determined. That's not such a bad thing.

  3. I wouldn't think feisty is a negative word. I guess maybe there are words that apply more to one gender. I hear cocky and I think of a dude. Never been offended by one though.

  4. Great comments. It's an interesting area I think, and I especially like Kitty's examples from the HR literature. I've found I'm thinking about it quite a lot now (but trying not to be tongue tied by it...!)

  5. Interesting. When I think of the word "feisty," I think about toddlers, for some reason. I think people are too quick sometimes to get offended on social media. Maybe because it's so impersonal.

  6. On a technical note, it seems that feisty comes from feist...

    feist (fst) also fice (fs)
    n. Chiefly Southern U.S.
    A small mongrel dog.
    [Variant of obsolete fist, short for fisting dog, from Middle English fisting, a blowing, breaking wind, from Old English fsting; see pezd- in Indo-European roots.]
    Regional Note: Feist, also fice, is one of several regional terms for a small mixed-breed dog. Used throughout the Midland and Southern states, feist connotes a snappy, nervous, belligerent little doghence the derived adjective feisty, meaning "touchy, quarrelsome, or spirited," applicable to animals and to people. Although feist remains a regional word, feisty has now entered standard usage throughout the United States.

    Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

    So although there are connections with fist, maybe the pet analogy is not so far away...

    1. Thank you, Alison - yes, I saw that description too. I think it is an example of a word that has travelled some distance from its roots - at least in some contexts!


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