Bookshelp header image for page World Wide Words logo

Fustilugs

Pronounced /ˈfʌstɪlʌɡz/Help with pronunciation

In those moments when only insults will do, how good it is to turn to the inventive but unsung genius of everyday folk, whose local dialect is so often full of expressive abuse. This word, meaning a grossly fat or slovenly woman, is an excellent example.

It still has some small currency, mostly in Yorkshire I believe, though at one time it was widely known across a swathe of England ranging from Cumbria to Devon. That it will almost certainly be unknown to the object of your obloquy will add relish to your utterance, though it might not be too hard to work out it isn’t complimentary. It has rarely been written down outside dialect glossaries, but it did appear in 1621 in a long passage full of terms of opprobrium in The Anatomy of Melancholy by Robert Burton: “Every lover admires his mistress, though she be ... a vast virago, or an ugly tit, a slug, a fat fustilugs”.

Many people know lug as a dialectal or regional English term for the ear (a British comedian used to exhort his audience to listen carefully with the cry “pin back your lugholes!”). If that sense were intended, the term would mean “smelly ears”, which would suggest that the person didn’t wash, a plausible origin. However, the Oxford English Dictionary is sure that it’s the idea of lugging around a heavy weight that’s at the root of the matter.

Share this page
Facebook Twitter StumbleUpon Google+

Search World Wide Words

Support World Wide Words!

Donate via PayPal. Select your currency from the list and click Donate.


Buy from Amazon and get me a small commission at no cost to you. Select your preferred site and click Go!

OTHER WAYS TO HELP

Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 16 Jul. 2005

Advice on copyright

The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
This page URL: http://www.worldwidewords.org/weirdwords/ww-fus2.htm
Last modified: 16 July 2005.