The right word

With Et Cetera, we’re finally getting onto interesting territory in the Meyrick/Croggon/Woodhead/Craven discussion. Friend Neandellus chips in with some good thoughts, as does David at White Whale.

I am tempted to spend another night in white (to steal, literally, from Italian) adding my own beads to this long thread, but I have spent most of my day making smart-looking maps of culture in Fitzroy. My new job, you may have heard already, is very awesome. The mapping involved private tours through back alleys and being treated to organic coffee, but most of all a serious amount of walking. The rest of the day (evening) was swing dancing, which is my new drug of choice. In between 15,000 words on my left, and the pending tax return on my right, with a big, heavy and sleepy head my discussion of criticism will have to wait for a bit of boredom.

However, however!, I feel I should let you all know that the quandary has been solved (thanks, Ian):

zhush, or joosh
zhush (ĵ as in the French je + “oosh”) is a word whose usage dates as far back as 1968 in Britain. Its spelling, much like its origin, is elusive. It has been defined by the American Dialect Society (who placed it on their 2003 Word of the Year List) as a verb to mean “primp or fluff up”. Today, it appears in the pop lingo of certain queer makeover shows to mean “making something striking or flamboyant”. Either way, OUTwrites’ début collection zhushes up the LGBTI community of Toronto through its chorus of eight distinct voices. – Urban Dictionary

4 thoughts on “The right word

  1. epistemysics says:

    I was searching for this word last year, and spent a furious 2 hours online looking, another week asking all my friends, and then a 6 month wait until one day a friend who was looking for information on the Mexican Civil War stumbled upon a link to british gay slang (I have no idea what the connection between the two is), and posted on my facebook the word “zhoosh”.

    My point? I think the word is actually “zhoosh”, rather than the two options you’ve posted. So I’ll take Ian’s Urban Dictionary link and trump him with my wikipedia: (It derives from a Romani word apparently.)

    Strangely enough, given the huge effort I made to find out how to spell zhoosh correctly, I’ve yet to use it since…

  2. Jana says:

    Thank you once again, epistemyics. There has been some debate around me on whether the last sound is sh or zh (zhuzhi being another alternative offered). I have to say, it looks better on the page than zhooshy, and I would argue for that spelling on the aesthetic grounds alone (tzuj, which is another Wikipedia option, also has some of the typographic flare, although I’m not sure it would be instantly recognisable).

    (However, on the grounds of pronunciation alone, sh or zh is largely insignificant, I think. A phonological change occurs whenever you try to put sh and zh so close together.)

    But the most interesting, of course, is the leakage between the fairground polari and the gay subculture in Britain, complete with references to Punch and Judy! What a fantastic story there…

  3. epistemysics says:

    Spelling based on aesthetic qualities and typographic flair?! This pseudo-eugenic approach to the dictionary can only lead to typographic anarchy!

    While I can’t stop you from sliding down this slippery spelling slope of doom, I can, however, inform you that the Oxford Dictionary of Modern Slang includes the word “zhoosh”. Rebel against Oxford at your peril! (I once in a story of mine tried to spell “record” as “reckord” (to add a more Steampunk flavour to the text), and now I only have half of my index finger on my left hand – I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.)

  4. Jana says:

    Well, tzuj would be the etymologically most correct, epistemics. The reason why Oxford may prefer a comparatively vanilla zhoosh has probably more to do with the combination of pronunciating logic and aesthetics, than with hard science. A good language is always a mix of the two.

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