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futz v,

hence vbl n futzing
Usu |fʌts|; rarely |futs|
[Etym uncert; cf Ger furzen to fart, and see quot 1985 Jewish Lang. Rev. at 1]esp North

1 usu with around, rarely about: To fool around, idle, waste time.

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contains DARE survey quotes
  • 1932 Farrell Young Lonigan 119 Chicago IL, Studs kept futzing around until Helen Shires came out with her soccer ball.
  • 1937 (1958) Levin Old Bunch 80 Chicago IL, There was a fellow that never wasted time. No fuzzy futzing around.
  • 1943 AmSp 18.43 NYC, I myself have heard this expression [=futz around] employed by adolescent Negro and Italian boys. The Yiddish [=arumfartzen] does get around. As with the word ‘nertz,’ . . ‘futz’ has undergone an internal change to make it less obviously vulgar. . . The German word is furzen.
  • 1950 WELS (“He doesn’t have much to do today, so he’s just _____.”) 1 Inf, ceWI, Futzing around.
  • 1967–68 DARE
    Qu. A10, . . Doing little unimportant things
    Inf IN68, Futzing around; NY34, Futzing; CA15, [ˈfutsɪŋ] around; it may be Yiddish;
    Qu. KK31, . . “He doesn’t have anything to do, so he’s just _____around.”
    Inf PA46, [ˈfʌtsɪŋ]; PA82, Futzing.
  • 1976 NY Times (NY) 31 Oct sec D 32/5 NY, I futz about, move things, think up another pose, reposition the camera.
  • 1985 NYT Mag. 1 Dec 16, The president . . discussing presummit maneuvering, told a group of wire-service reporters that the time had come to “stop this futzing around.”
  • 1985 Jewish Lang. Rev. 5.316, One possibly correct explanation of these meanings [of futz] if [sic] that they result from emulation of fuck: if fuck ‘to copulate’ = futz ‘to copulate’ and if fuck around means ‘to idle, loaf, etc.’, then futz acquires the[se] meanings . . by analogy. . . Another explanation . . is that the verb futz is a euphemism of fuck. Thirdly, there is the possibility of Yiddish influence.
  • Ibid 318, Eastern Ashkenazic English fart around is a translation of [Eastern Yiddish] arumfartsn zikh. . . [I]f Yiddish or Eastern Ashkenazic English is relevant in any way, there must have been either deliberate phonological change or blending. . . I suggest . . that Eastern Ashkenazic English fart around is indeed relevant [to the etymology of futz around].
  • 1988 DARE File ceWI (as of c1920), When I was a child, my Uncle Fred often said, “You kids! Quit futzing [ˈfʌtsɪŋ] around!” or “Don’t futz with that!” My mother, as well as others in our town, also used the expression; many of us still say it. I always thought it must be a euphemism for that other word, and I think it comes from the German.

2 with with: To mess with; to tinker or trifle with.

  • 1974 Esquire 81.4.106/2, [Dan] Rather protested this caprice. He would film what he damn well pleased. . . Nobody futzes with Dan Rather and gets away with it.
  • 1980 Chr. Sci. Monitor (Boston MA) 4 Mar 16/1, In spring there is the garden. In fall the leaves. But in winter, unless you’re into igloo-making, futzing with the snowblower, or carving out figure eights on the pond, what is there to mess with?
  • 1984 Wall St. Jrl. (NY NY) 26 Jan 19/3, [Advt:] Macintosh was designed for anyone who handles, collects, distributes, interprets, organizes, or otherwise futzes with information.
  • 1988 DARE File csWI, Don’t futz with it; you might break it.
  • 1988 [see 1 above].