By Eric Zorn on April 25, 2023

From my blog, November 2003: 

I raised a question  after a recentTribune editorial griped about “the wussy nature” of a filibuster then taking place in the U.S. Senate.

I quoted the 1982 movie, “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” in which a character explains that the insult means, “part wimp, part pussy,” and I offered the opinion that, therefore, it’s impossible to separate the word completely from the offensive and sexist slang used to refer anatomically or generally to women.

I asked Editorial Page Editor Don Wycliff what he thought about “wussy” and other words that clearly have a connection to or carry a deliberate echo of much more offensive terms (such as “freakin’” or “frickin’”).

He quoted back to me the Tribune stylebook’s stern caution about the use of “slang terms referring to sexual organs, acts or characteristics, or excremental functions” that “also applies to euphemisms and vulgarities that would be acceptable words in other contexts.”

He added: “My personal feeling is that none of those words you mentioned would be a problem.”

More that 1,200 readers voted in a recent click poll on this page in which I asked  how off-color, on a six-point scale, they considered the word “wussy.”

Only one in four said they felt the word was without taint.

Full results:

Mildly off-color. I use it among friends but avoid it in formal writing and when speaking to strangers —-37.9%

Not off color at all. I use it freely when speaking to the clergy and small, impressionable children —  25.0%

 Just slightly off-color. I use it nearly all settings, but with a slight pang because I know it’s substandard —- 16.6%

Off-color. I’m no prude, and I don’t mind when others use it, but do I try to avoid the word and find other synonyms.  —- 13.7%

Very off-color. I never use it and shudder when I hear it.—  4.4%

Extremely off-color and offensive. I never use it and think ill of those who do —  2.4%

(1228 total responses)

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