FIZZLE: to fail after a good start

sloppy snowfall

Well, once again, Providence was spared from what had been predicted to be a major winter storm.

Oh, we received a snowfall of several inches of the white stuff, but the rain which came in the middle of the night created a fizzle in terms of what we had expected.   My understanding is that it is more difficult northeast of us in Boston.  What we have instead is a heavy, wet slush, which is more water than snow.  It’s pretty messy out there.

When I use the word fizzle it is my intent to say that the actual event didn’t hold up to its prediction.   It is still a mess out there, and if it should turn colder, the wet, soggy stuff on the ground would become treacherous.  But the weather reports are for it to be some what mild (meaning above freezing) for most of the day, giving the plows a chance to get rid of the slush that sits on the sides of the road and for shovels to do the rest.

The word fizzle is one of those words that we use easily in our casual American English.   I was amused to find out that the word, which dates back to the 16th century, Old Norse language, actual is a derivative of the word fīsa, which means to pass gas (fart in common language, or flatulate  in more refined circles.)   It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to figure out why fizzle has the meaning of “false start.”

It raises the point that in our contemporary society we have become much less embarrassed or offended when common words, often coming close to vulgar or crude boundaries, are dropped in conversation.   There are even technical applications of such words, as in computereze, where a fart is an error message or hiccup.  We often hear people say that when they cannot remember a word, phrase, or name,  they have a “brain fart.”  It is a “senior moment” to others.    But, for the most part the word is considered inappropriate in regular society.

I’ll stick with fizzle, today, however, and be thankful that we didn’t get innudated with the heavy snow that was predicted earlier.   To be fair to the meteorologists, they began early yesterday afternoon to sense that we were going to get more rain than snow.  The travel warnings were still out there, and it was wise to exercise caution.   Even today, it is important to be careful when driving.  The slush on the road can be deceiving.

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Photo Credit: Emmanuel Dunand, NY Daily News

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