Historically Speaking

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Posts Tagged ‘Carl Reiner’

Klutzery

Posted by Elyse Bruce on May 29, 2018

Just as one who is an archer practices archery, someone who is clumsy is involved in klutzery. The word klutz is from the German word klotz which means boor or a clod, and that word comes from Middle High German and literally means a block or ball.  A person who is described as a klutz is either very clumsy or stupid and socially inept.

The word is being found more and more often in daily conversations and in books and magazines, and some even go as far as to use the word in a mildly affectionate way.  In an essay by Jacob Greene, Ph.D. (English) published in April 2016 on the Augmented Writing website, the writer included the word in this passage.

On the contrary, Rickert sees klutzery as “something to be cultivated for itself,” arguing that it is “the very ground of style, of composition, and development.”

In an article published on Wanderlust Lust in November 2014, Kristin Brumm also used it in an affectionate way in this sentence.

That is why I have chosen to see my accident not as an unfortunate mishap or evidence of spectacular klutzery, but rather the Universe hearing my wishes and creating for me the time and space to write.

Four years before that, Mike Achim used it in his article published on Fevered Mutterings in November 2010.

“The Art Of Unfortunate Travel“, choosing as a theme the cock-ups, mishaps, klutzery and 100% foolproof schemes gone awry …

But even though klutzery enjoyed this treatment, it wasn’t the first time the word had been used by writers and authors.

“Phantom of the Paradise” written by former editor at the SoHo Weekly News, Bjarne Rostaing and published by Dell Publishing in New York and W.H. Allen in London in 1975, the word klutzery is used in this capacity.

Swan was offended by musical klutzery, and he had been exposed to a lot of it over the past several hours. He was through being amused with Philbin’s plastic-hippie clothes and the endless line of no-talent kids. So when Winslow Leach arrived Swan was not put off by his ill-fitted jeans, bad hair and ugly spectacles.

IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE:  Bjarne Rostaing exposed the 1984 U.S. Olympic blood doping scandal for Sports Illustrated. He also won an AFI First Place Award for a sports video, and has written a number of books.

Believe it or not, the word is found in a government document two years earlier, and if it’s used in a government document, it’s obvious the word was known and understood by the population overall. The word klutzery was part of the comments made by the Honorable Louis C. Wyman of New Hampshire in the House of Representatives on 7 December 1973.

Now understand, despite my mechanical klutzery, I’m not mindful of the carnage brought on by misuse of those dangerous horseless carriages over the years. My argument certainly isn’t with highway safety. Or even some form of safety-belting for those who want it.

The word klutz made its way into mainstream English in the mid-1960s. American comedian, actor, director, and writer Carl Reiner (born 20 March 1922) gave an interview to the Los Angeles Times in 1959 where he shared that a klutz was “a dancer who dances as good as he can, but instead of just applause he also gets laughter.” Before that interview, the word klutz doesn’t show up in any English newspapers, magazines, or books unless it’s a mentioned as a surname.

This means that somewhere between Carl Reiner’s interview in 1959 and the government document in 1973 (just under 14 years) klutzery became a thing, and people knew and understood what klutzery was.

Now that we know about archers and archery and klutzes and klutzery, perhaps it’s time to find out about jugglery.

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