Posted by: Jack Henry | October 17, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Fisticuffs

Happy Thursday morning to you!

I recently threatened my coworker, Ron, with fisticuffs if he didn’t accept my changes on a project we were working on. Ron responds well to two things: dessert and the threat of violence. I didn’t have anything sweet on me; so, you can see, I had no choice.

HR will be happy to know that Ron didn’t accept my challenge, but he challenged me in return to find out where the word fisticuffs originated. I first remember the word from the musical movie Oliver! (1968), which my husband and sons and I like to watch together every holiday season. In one of the songs, the Artful Dodger and Nancy sing these lyrics from a song called “I’ll Do Anything”:

I’ll do anything for you dear, anything, for you mean everything to me.

I know that I’ll go anywhere for your smile, anywhere, for your smile, everywhere, I’d see.
Would you climb a hill?
Wear a daffodil?
Leave me all your will?
Even fight my Bill?
What? Fisticuffs?

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, fisticuffs originated sometime around 1600. It’s a compound of two nouns: fist (a hand with fingers doubled into the palm) and cuff (to strike with an open hand). It’s often pronounced fisty-cuffs, and the Merriam-Webster definition is “a fight with the fists (boxing).” I love the sound of this word. No matter what it originally meant, a fisticuff doesn’t sound like a serious fight. It sounds like a fight Sheldon Cooper would have with Barney Fife.

If you remember the movie Oliver! and you’d like to relive the song and the amazing choreography of “I’ll Do Anything,” click this link. It’s brilliant. And don’t worry about me and Ron. We’ll make up. I’ll bring cookies.

Jack Wild as the Artful Dodger

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.278.0432 | Ext: 765432

About Editor’s Corner

Editor’s Corner keeps your communication skills sharp by providing information on grammar, punctuation, JHA style, and all things English. As editors, we spend our days reading, researching, and revising other people’s writing. We love to spend a few extra minutes to share what we learn with you and keep it fun while we’re doing it.

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