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June 13, 2007 12:02 PM   Subscribe

What is the etymology of the slang term for dogs, 'pooch'?
posted by mwhybark to Writing & Language (9 answers total)
Best answer: The OED says:
Origin unknown. Cf. POOCHIE n.
  One popular explanation of the word suggests that it may be derived from German Putzi, a general term of endearment and a popular name for pets < putz- (in German putzig cute, endearingly odd (orig. north.), either < German Butz goblin, sprite (in Middle High German as butze, now regional (south.); prob.< Middle High German butzen to knock: see BOTCH v.1) + -ig -Y suffix1 or < Dutch potsig, poetsig funny, cute < poets joke, prank, of uncertain origin (perh. also ult. related to BOTCH v.1, or perh. < French bosse raised ornament, relief carving: see BOSS n.1) + -ig -Y suffix1) + -i -Y suffix6.
  Recorded slightly earlier as the proper name of a pet dog: 1906 Chicago Tribune 30 Dec. II. 4/7 (heading) 'Jiggs' Donohue's dog missing. White Sox first baseman loses his brindle pup Pooch on South Side.
posted by grouse at 12:12 PM on June 13, 2007

Interesting. Probably the OED will turn out to be right. The Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology says: pooch n. 1924, dog; of unknown origin.
posted by emyd at 12:32 PM on June 13, 2007

The OED entry is a draft revision dated Dec. 2006, so it's as up-to-date an explanation as you're going to get. Other dictionaries say the origin is unknown.
posted by languagehat at 12:51 PM on June 13, 2007

Response by poster: Damn, address unknown, huh? I hafta let the OED idea roll around in my head a bit.

There's something off in the way my mouth tries to relate the German word to 'pooch,' unlike the dachshund - doxen thing we were nattering about yesterday. Additionally, the implication that 'putzi' becomes 'poochie' and thence 'pooch,' the dominantly-used form, seems odd.

Anyway, thanks grouse.
posted by mwhybark at 1:39 PM on June 13, 2007

Bear in mind that the german 'z' is roughly english 'ts', it's rather close to 'ch', especially since english isn't used to 'ts' in places like that.
posted by Arturus at 7:48 PM on June 13, 2007

Additionally, the implication that 'putzi' becomes 'poochie' and thence 'pooch,' the dominantly-used form, seems odd.

That sort of thing does happen from time to time. It's called back-formation — instead of getting poochie from pooch like you'd expect, we worked "backwards" and got pooch from poochie. Lots of other examples at the end of the linked article if you're curious.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:28 AM on June 14, 2007

Response by poster: Interesting, nebulawindphone, but the article also provides support for my skepticism.

None of the cited back-formation examples is of a diminutive noun form birthing a dominant. The examples that end in the 'y' or 'ie' sound are all adjectival, e.g., 'funky' to 'funk.'

Also, given that there's a direct route into English for 'putz' with a distinct pronounciation and derogative meaning (from Yiddish, I think), does that also make 'putzi' weak?

Arturus, I know about the 'ts' pronounciation and I at least don't feel it's the same as 'ch' - if it were, 'its' and 'itch' would sound much more similar than they do.

Anyway, I think I've identified the components of why the 'putzi' explanation feels off to me. It's interesting to note that I can only come up with a limited set of English words that end in that 'ooch' sound, 'pooch' and 'mooch' being more or less it, and I can't come up with any words in French or German that end in that sound (due to the lack of the English 'ch' sound).

I can come up with Spanish and Italian words that incorporate the 'ch' sound (borracho, churra, ciccolina), though, but none that seem to relate to the word or form.

I can't get to the OED directly, but this notes that said resource suggests an Old French base for 'mooch,' (muchier or mucier).

For whatever reason, I'm more willing to buy that story, so I'm probably being overly skeptical.
posted by mwhybark at 8:12 AM on June 15, 2007

Response by poster: hooch! smooch! Maybe brooch, except I pronounce that word 'broach'.
posted by mwhybark at 8:17 AM on June 15, 2007

Response by poster: hooch: from, of all things, Tlingkit.

smooch: onomatopoesie (if you will), English.
posted by mwhybark at 8:21 AM on June 15, 2007

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