Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Tussy Mussy

Tussy Mussy - a rather silly sounding name, no? Several years ago when I first heard this spoken of, that is what I thought - I also wondered, what the heck a tussy mussy was. The more examples that I saw, both antique and contemporary, the name grew on me and now I can't imagine these called anything else.

After doing a small amount (and I do mean small) of research, to find the origins of this name, I came across this article from The Word Detective.

For a little bunch of flowers, "tussy-mussy" carries more than its share of mystery. The term apparently first appeared in the 15th century, but its derivation is unknown.

There was an earlier form in Middle English, "tusmose" or "tussemose," as well as some use of simply "tussy" around the same period, and some indication of an earlier word like "tus" or "tusse" meaning "a cluster of flowers," but the clues are thin and most dictionaries simply classify "tussy-mussy" (or the earlier form "tuzzy-muzzy") as another case of "origin unknown." The "mussy" part, by the way, is simply a case of "reduplication," the humorous alliteration found in terms such as "cutesy-wootsey."

It's somewhat surprising that "tussy-mussy" is around at all today. The term faded from use in the early 18th century, and was only revived in the 20th (the Oxford English Dictionary contains no citations between 1706 and 1958). The Victorians may have indeed been brandishing "tussy-mussies" on festive occasions, but it seems that they must have been calling them something else.

One possible clue to the history of "tussy-mussy" may be the word "tussock," originally meaning "a tuft of hair" and now "a clump or hillock of grass or the like," which seems to bear a resemblance in both form and meaning to "tus" or "tusse." This "tussock" is related to the English dialectical term "tusk," meaning a tuft of hair or grass, which in turn may (but also may not) be related to our more familiar "tusk" meaning "long tooth."

Some random information, that is rather interesting on how these quaint, decorative holders may have got their name

Antique tussy mussies are usually made of silver or silver plate and are cone shaped. Victorian ladies would place small posies of flowers in them. Some had holders and when used for a wedding bouquet, the tussy mussy would be placed in the holder for the reception. Today, many bridal and floral shops carry reproduction tussy mussies to be used for this same purpose.

Contemporary decorative art tussy mussies are made from a variety of materials, however all incorporate the same rounded or squared off cone shape and are embellished with ribbons, flowers, trims, beading, etc.

The tussy mussy shown above arrived in the mail today from Tristan Robin Blakeman. (Please see my previous blog post about Tristan, if you haven't already). A short time ago I correctly answered one of Tristan's little quiz questions, and this charming tussy is my prize! Thank you Tristan, I love it! For more examples of Tristan's creativity, check out his Etsy shop.


Zan Asha said...

Hehee, Sue, you always find the most interesting information--both on Tussy-mussies and Tristan!

I've always loved Victoriana, flowers, and funny sounding names--funny how they all seem to go together...for example, I've also loved another flower arrangement, the "nosegay" and the "garland"...I think nosegay is another one of those funny terms...maybe because the scent of flowers makes the nose happy? :)

Sue said...

Zan, I love your definition of "nosegay"...perfect! LOL

Kims Art said...

You have inspired me today to make a tussy mussy. It is a funny name, but I love them. I enjoyed the info you posted. Have a creative day!

Sue said...

Kim, you have such a knack at embellishing and creating beautiful Victoriana, that I bet it will be beautiful. Hope you post about it.

Anonymous said...

Wow that's a great tussy mussy you got! Beautiful.
Thanks too for all the info on something I'd never heard about!

Lezlei Ann Young said... light is shining a bit brighter now. I keep saying I am going to make some "girlie cones"...but I have to wait until I finish some of the other stuff I have


Nun of a Kind! said...

This is just beautiful!...and thanks for the history lesson, as well as introducing me to a new shop!

3rdEyeMuse said...

what a happy arrival - and thank you for the lesson. :)

Heather Leavers said...

thank you - wondered what those little posy-holders were called.