One thing is for sure the origins of this amusing and entertaining little word contain doozies of dilemmas. Fourteenth and fifteenth century English used it as an alternate form of "daisy
" for excellent
. Also spelled dusie
, a Canadian says "That's a doozer
!" to describe “something extraordinary
," and it’s somehow a variant of "dinger
" as in hum-dinger
"Oh! Hum! Ain't she a dinger?
Enlarged upon by the German vocabulary "hummen und tingen". In olde platz it is "humen a dingen" as in to “hum and ring.” It’s also attached to the British sailors of the Thames River
and their turn of the 19th century slang "floozy
”. And in Australia they point out something that “rather better than a doozy” as a dilly
While you’re a " hummen und tingen " over that information, doozy could also have come from an Italian actress by the name of Elenora Duse (1858-1924) who was deemed one of the leading actresses of her time in the view of several reviewers, greater even than the celebrated Sarah Bernhardt.
”Madame Duse's reputation as an actress was founded less on her "creations" than on her magnificent individuality. In contrast to the great French actress she avoided all "make-up"; her art depended on intense naturalness rather than on stage effect, sympathetic force or poignant intellectuality rather than the theatrical emotionalism of the French tradition. Her dramatic genius gave a new reading to the parts.”
According to the Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang, doozy does in all probability spring from "daisy," which has been, since the eighteenth century, a synonym for "excellent, superior or fine." By 1903 doozy was being bandied about as an adjective, and Random House concludes that the, “ …spread of the word may have been influenced by the popularity of an Italian actress by the name of Eleonora Duse (1859-1924).”
Evidently Eleonora was quite a doozy. Given the correct pronunciation of her name, and the allusion of doozy to something "exceptional and admirable, one expert says it also sheds some light on the alternate Dusie spelling.
Shakespearean scholar Edwin Abbott (1838-1926) relates another variation "doozandazzy" used during the early 1900s as an expression for "a (remarkable) gadget". Another theory of substance offered is about an automobile. Poet and etymologist John Ciardi opined that "doozy" cropped up as an altered form of "dusie," short for Duesenberg, an expensive and classy American sedan produced from 1921-1937. However, dozy, another version of the word, existed prior to the Duesenberg hitting the market just before World War I. Most of the evidence pre dates Ciardi’s theory by several years illustrating that doozy appeared in American colloquial speech quite a while before the luxury automobile even existed. In either case, doozy was most likely reinforced by Duesenberg.
”These successes were the rewards of brothers Fred Duesenberg (1876-1932) and August Duesenberg (1879-1955), two native talents and mechanical masterminds who taught themselves the principles of transportation engineering. Born in Germany and raised among the large Duesenberg family that had emigrated to Iowa, the boys found favor in building and racing bicycles. Their own bicycle shop evolved into a career of constructing and piloting racing cars.
After a period of government service, building World War I aviation and marine engines in New Jersey, the brothers came to Indianapolis, where the Duesenberg Automobile and Motors Company was established in 1920. Production soon began on Duesenberg's first passenger car, the Model A, a costly prestige car. The expensive Model A, though it pioneered the use of straight eight-cylinder engines and four-wheel hydraulic brakes, had disappointing sales and was discontinued in 1926.
In the fall of that year, transportation industrialist E.L. Cord, president of the Auburn Automobile Company, purchased Duesenberg, with a vision of making luxury cars on a larger program. In October 1926, E.L. Cord told the Indianapolis Star, "The purchase of the Duesenberg factory is the culmination of my plans to be able to offer the world an automobile of undisputed rank. In fact, the finest thing on four wheels. Duesenberg cars will be strictly custom built, the owners selecting their own body styles, their own body makers and selecting their own colors. The price probably will be $18,000, no matter what model, from racer to limousine. We will give the buyer 120 mile-an-hour speed if desired. Naturally, the production of this type of automobile, which carries a warranty of fifteen years, will be limited and we are now taking orders…
E.L. Cord commissioned Fred Duesenberg, newly installed as vice- president of engineering, to develop the ultimate motorcar that would outclass all other American makes. The result was the unsurpassed Model J, introduced at the New York Automobile Salon for the 1929 model year. Its brutish Lycoming straight eight engine, developing 265 horsepower (the next largest car on the market was the Pierce-Arrow, with a horsepower of 125), attained speeds exceeding 115 miles per hour. By 1932, supercharged engines of 320 horsepower were part of the line.
Huge, powerful, and polished, they are one of the most extraordinary coupés ever built. And, as it happens, they were and still are commonly referred to as "Dusies." One researcher notes that three-fourths of all Duesenberg cars still exist today and more than half are still operable. Some references put the founding of the company as early as 1917, even though the company did not formally exist yet, the Duesenberg brothers built racing cars then.
Originally spelled "Dusie” more than one etymologist is convinced that it’s probably a blend of daisy and Duesenberg. Perched on the brink of The Great Depression, a Dusenberg was the height of extraordinary. If you can imagine purchasing an eighteen thousand dollar vehicle when the average income grossed less than a thousand dollars, people who couldn't afford a Dusenberg drove a Rolls-Royce. Hey that’s a doozy of a hum dinger!
Is that where “We’re on a Roll!” comes from?
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