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Archive for May 8th, 2021

No Fuss, No Muss

Posted by Admin on May 8, 2021

Whether you say no fuss, no muss or the other way around, it means something can be done without a lot of effort or difficulty. If we take the idiom apart, a fuss is a state of excitement and it’s usually over something that isn’t worth worrying about in the first place. When you muss something, you mess it up … not beyong being able to fix it again, but just enough to make what was previously tidy a little bit untidy.

It’s only been since 2009 when the expression seems to have added another component to become, “No fuss, no muss, no coconuts” according to HR and Recruiting expert, Jason Pankow who used the expression his Fistful of Talent website that year, and continues to be used by people such as printmaker and artist JD Donnelly a decade later, and blogger Allison Fitzgibbon in blog articles in 2020.

Fuss first appeared in writing in 1792, and an extended version — fussify — appeared in writing in 1832.

Since muss was from the mid 1800s and fuss was from the late 1700s, there’s only about 50 years between the first printing of both words separately.

The idiom was mentioned on the Cinema Blend website where Conner Scherdtfeger’s article of 16 May 2018 indicated that The Flash was known for using the expression, “No fuss, no muss.” Then I found a reference in the Amazing Spiderman archive of 11 June 2014 referring to Electro and there was the idiom again.

A bit more research and in “The Avengers” movie of 2012 where Robert Downey Jr. plays the role of Tony Stark / Iron Man, Tony Stark uses that expression.

In the 28 October 2000 edition of Billboard magazine, in the article “Sites + Sounds” talk about touch-screen music downloading was the main topic of discussion. The concept was powered by Diamond Multimedia which had invested $3 million USD into the technology. The concept was that shoppers went to music stores, plugged in the portable player, browsed through the available music on the platform, bought the music files, and immediately downloaded their purchases to that portable player. The process was hailed as one that would only take a few minutes start to finish. The article included this comment.

S3, of course, has plenty to gain through championing any developments that will make the process of moving music onto digital devices — such as its own Rio line — a less-exerting and, thus, more mainstream occurrence.No fuss, no muss, no hassles,” says Hardie of the goal.

Although many articles claimed the idiom was a result of 1960s advertising companies, the fact of the matter is they are wrong in asserting that is when the idiom first became popular.

In fact, on page 130 of the April 1946 edition of Popular Photography, I found an advertisement for a FotoFlat which, according to the advertisement, was America’s most popular dry mount with its ‘modern thermoplastic dry mount membrane.’ The advertisement from Seal Inc of Shelton (Connecticutt) began with these words:

… better than ever
… the professional way

no fuss, no muss, no bother

Idiomation kept researching and found that on page 36 in Volume 43 of The Meyer Druggist back in 1922, the idiom was found in an advertisement for Puritan malt sugar syrup available at Meyer Brothers Drug Company of St. Louis (Missouri). The advertisement bragged:

Insist on Puritan malt sugar syrup made from choicest barley and imported bohemian hops. No boiling, no spoiling. No fuss, no muss. Simple and easy to make. Success the first time.

In Volume 22 of American Magazine published in July of 1921, on page 76, was an advertisement for a Rotospeed Stencil Duplicator from the Rotospeed Company of Dayton (Ohio) selling for $43.50 USD that guaranteed to speed up sales with advertising that went direct to customers for pennies which would make up for the price of the machine within months.

This machine prints form letters that are equal in every respect to typewritten originals, yet there’s no type to set — no trouble — no muss. Simply write the letter on the typewriter or by hand — put it on the machine — turn the handle — that’s all. You can make 1,000 copies at a cost of 20c.

While muss was there, fuss was missing. Did this indicate the expression happened sometime between 1921 and 1922? More research revealed that was not the case!

On page 33 of the 13 October 1913 Saturday Evening Post, there was an advertisement for Blaisdell colored pencils from the Blaisdell Pencil Company of Philadelphia (Pennsylvania). The first paragraph was compelling with this claim:

There is no mystery in the universal popularity of Blaisdell colored pencils. The superior gritless leads are smooth-writing and long-wearing. They never break in sharpening and there is no waste. Just nick a Blaisdell between the perforations and pull the narrow strip of paper straighaway. Quick as a wink your pencil is sharpened — no fuss, no muss.

The Clare Sentinel newspaper of Clare (Michigan) carried an advertisement in their 16 May 1901 edition (Volume 9, No. 25) placed by the Standard Oil Company advertising their wickless blue flame oil stove. On the left hand side of the advertisement, readers found the idiom: No fuss, no muss.

Standard Oil Company advertisement from May 1901

Of course, that same advertisement made its way into The Conservative newspaper of Nebraska City (Nebraska) and in The Youth’s Companion magazine (Volume 75) that same month, and undoubtedly a great many other newspapers, magazines, and publications. This indicates the expression was already widespread and well-known.

Volume 6 of the Safety Valve published in 1892 carried an advertisement from Bradley & Company of Syracuse (New York) all about steam boilers purified by he Bunnell Feed-Water Filter. The advertisement claimed the following:

Water is purified before entering Boilers. No hot, heavy, dirty pans to handle. Five minutes a day keeps it in order. No fuss, no muss, nothing disagreeable. No guessing, it performs exactly as guaranteed.

Back in 1892, you certainly couldn’t ask for more than that from a water filter on your boiler!

A few earliers, in 1887 in Lebanon (Ohio), lawyer Madison Elmer Gustin ran for public office as township and village clerk with the slogan, “no fuss, no muss, just vote for Gus.” Not only was he elected that year, he served in public office in various capacities until his death in 1935.

Remember when Idiomation stated there was only about 50 years between fuss and muss appearing in writing separately (late 1700s to mid 1800s)? With the earliest verifiable published version Idiomation could find for no fuss, no muss being 1887 — and used as a political slogan that was meant to be understood by everyday people who voted in elections — it is safe to assume it wasn’t much after the appearance of the word muss in the mid-1800s that fuss joined forces with that word to become no fuss, no muss.

Still, the earliest Idiomation can tag for no fuss, no muss is 1887.

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