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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Twee: Since 1905

Posted by on February 22 at 9:18 AM

Last night, I had a (semi-) heated discussion with some friends about “twee”its roots, whether certain bands or publications were, whether the adjective could be used in a non-deprecatory way, etc. Because none of us were near an etymological dictionary, we didn’t know this:

“TWEE: `tiny, dainty, miniature,’ 1905, from childish pronunciation of sweet.”

Here’s a sampling of “twee” usage over the years:

1905 Punch 8 Mar. 178/1, `I call him perfectly twee!’ persisted Phyllis.

1917 M. T. HAINSSELIN Grand Fleet Days xv. 91 Girl: Oh, here’s another little gun; isn’t it a darling! Isn’t it just too twee for words!

1956 G. DURRELL Drunken Forest x. 193 `What twee individuals?’ `Those knowledgeable sentimentalists who are forever telling me that it’s cruel to lock up the poor wild creatures in little wooden boxes.’

1962 Guardian 12 July 7/1 The… highly commendable idea of importing bulk grains… and passing them, tweely packaged, to cage-bird fanciers.

1983 Listener 21 July 33/1 Mike Nichols’s thriller-fantasy about dolphins should be as nauseatingly twee as the worst Disneybut it isn’t.

CommentsRSS icon

Nothing is more "twee" than trying to define "twee."

Twee was examined by William Safire a couple of months ago in the Times. If you have a subscription you should go check it out, but I'm sure it costs money by now.

Why Bill, I think you've just tried to define "twee."

no need to pay for a subscription to the NYT both SPL and KCLS have it available in their databases -- all you need is free library card from either location.

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