A Muggy, Mauzy Day

I grew up with the word ‘muggy’ so I’ve never considered it at all unusual.  During those dog days of an Ottawa August, when there’s little difference between swimming and walking because of the humidity, my mother, fanning herself with a stray piece of paper, would observe that it was ‘awfully muggy’.  I have, however, come across people who have never heard the word ‘muggy’ and are completely mystified as to its meaning.  It turns out to be an eighteenth-century English invention, evidently borrowed from the Scandies (does it get muggy in Scandinavia – I suppose it must) – as below:

muggy (adj.) Look up muggy at Dictionary.com1731, from mugen “to drizzle” (late 14c.), from a Scandinavian source, cf. Old Norse mugga “drizzling mist,” possibly from PIE *meug- “slimy, slippery” (see mucus).

I’m not sure I’m fond of this definition, which somehow manages to migrate from drizzling mist to mucus – ‘mucus’ along with ‘moist’ is among my least favorite words – some words simply do not sing.

I recently came across a Twitter stream that discussed ‘muggy’ in concert with ‘mauzy’, evidently a Newfoundland expression meaning ‘misty’, but used to indicate hazy or foggy – mauzy.   In addition to illustrating  the wonderful particularity and strangeness of regional colloquialisms, ‘mauzy’  also reminds me of the extent to which Canadians are attuned to the weather – to the lights in the air and the shimmers on the water and the way breezes blow across certain fields – and how all of those things tell us when we’re home.

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About hickson1

Art historian, professor, Italian Renaissance and Baroque specialist
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One Response to A Muggy, Mauzy Day

  1. “It’s a mauzy old day,” is often spoken wistfully by one wishing for a bit more sun but resigned to the fact that here at the northwest Atlantic the beneficial vapours from the ocean are generally the best we can hope for.

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