Can mizzle be a noun as well as a verb? | Twitter debate!

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As highlighted by Charlotte Higgins in the Guardian last year, Rosemary Sutcliff once wrote  in her great historical novel and classic of children’s literature The Eagle of the Ninth about a ‘ battle fought through the grey drizzle of a west country dawn (which) is illuminated by “firebrands that gilded the falling mizzle and flashed on the blade of sword and heron-tufted war spear” ‘. I drew attention to this article once again with a post last week. Someone tweeted in response that they were surprised to come across ‘mizzle’ as a noun. Hence this set of tweets  in the  last 24 hours (read from the bottom):

On Mizzle in Rosemary Sutcliff's writing

3 comments

  1. Language, particularly English, is a dynamic thing, and words have always jumped fences. All they need to become valid is constant and consistent usage. As can be seen from the OED on “mizzle”, its first recorded use is as a verb (1439) but it later turns up as a noun in 1490, indicating that the use as a verb came first.

    This is ongoing – as a more recent example, when I was growing up the word “access” was only ever used as a noun. but come the computer age it suddenly started turning up as a verb, and is now commonly accepted as such.

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  2. I’ve always used it as both verb and noun and believed that to be okay. It’s one of those old dialect words from northern England, kept from the original Middle English. And I couldn’t imagine Rosemary Sutcliff getting it wrong- she was very precise in her use of words :)

    The authority – the OED – confirms that both verb and noun are accepted usage:

    1. mizzle, n.1 1490
    …Very fine misty rain; drizzle….

    2. mizzle, n.2 1912
    …A disappearance, a sudden or surreptitious departure. Esp. in to do a mizzle: to depart suddenly, to vanish. Cf. mizzle…

    3. mizzle, v.1 1439
    …intr. To rain in very fine droplets; to drizzle. Usu. impers. Also to mizzle of rain….

    4. mizzle, v.2 1583
    …trans. To confuse, muddle, mystify; to intoxicate, befuddle….

    5. mizzle, v.3 1781
    …intr. To go away suddenly; to vanish, disappear. Freq. with off. Also in imper.: ‘go away!’…

    6. mizzle, v.4 a1935
    …intr. Esp. of a child: to complain, grumble; to moan, whimper….

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