'He's a wuss.' 'She's a wuss.' It means ineffectual person, indecisive, weak. It's from the United States; it came in in the 1980s. To be honest, I didn't think it would last, but it's still here.
It has a very unclear etymology. It may be from 'wussy' - that is from pussy wussy, you know, the pussy cat. It's a kind of talking down about a cat. Or it might be a blend of 'wimp' - that is an ineffectual person - plus 'pussy': wimp/pussy, wussy, wuss.
'Stop being a wuss!' - that's the usage you hear a lot these days. Anyway, whatever the etymology, a politician was said to be 'a liberal wuss' - that is a coward. And there are even Wuss Awards now. I saw on the web the other day, 'Who was the biggest Wuss of 2005?' - with a capital W - this is obviously something very attractive to be.
The word seems to be developing. It's become a verb - 'Stop wussing!' 'Ah! He's wussing around!' And I've even seen a new noun, wusser, wussers - 'We're all wussers now!' 'We've all become a complete pack of complete wussers,' says somebody on a website.
Transcript (pdf - 43k)
Lesson plan - Teacher's notes, student worksheets with answers (pdf - 70k)
Audio - Professor David Crystal on "Wuss" (mp3 - 515k)
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