According to an article by Fern Riddell, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley once wrote to a friend:

I was so ready to give myself away—and being afraid of men, I was apt to get tousy-mousy for women.

Apparently (according to that same article), tuzzy-muzzy is “slang for the vagina,” dating back to 1642.

Only one of my five slang dictionaries (Partridge’s 8th, 1984) lists either of those terms; it defines tuzzy-muzzy or tuzzi-muzzy or tuzzymuzzy as “the female pudend,” dating back to 1710. The Shorter OED also lists tuzzy-muzzy or tussie-mussie with the same meaning, along with an alternative meaning: a bunch of flowers. (And tussy by itself means, essentially, “tousled.”)

Surely Shelley just meant that she liked to buy flowers for women! …Okay, maybe not.

I do think it’s interesting, though, that she used the phrase get tousy-mousy for; I’m certainly willing to believe that that phrase is sexual slang, and I get the general idea of what she seems to have meant, but the exact meaning of her usage doesn’t seem obvious to me if tousy-mousy refers to genitalia per se.

One Response to “tousy-mousy”

  1. Frederic Bush

    James Fenimore Cooper also apparently used the phrase and attributed it to Byron.


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