Fazers on stun.

Dear WD: In a magazine article I was reading recently, the author announced that he was not “phased” by something bad that had happened to him. I was taken aback by this spelling of the word, which I have used all my life and have always seen spelled “fazed.” Is “phased” a more correct spelling, and perhaps the key to the origin of the word? — Edith Freedle.

“Phased” certainly looks more formal, but no, the proper spelling is indeed, as you remember, “fazed,” meaning “disconcerted or alarmed.” Perhaps the author thought that he was being meticulous when he spelled the word that way, or perhaps (and this is the scarier scenario) he had never seen the word spelled out before. Personally, I blame television.

Just to be certain about all this, I went looking for “faze,” and a funny thing happened. I looked in every dictionary of slang and unconventional English I have, and “faze” was nowhere to be found. Surely, I thought, this is a fairly established slang word, probably from the 1930’s or 40’s, so why isn’t it there? I even looked up “phased” in desperation, but no dice. I took several deep breaths (not easy in Manhattan) and plunged into the pages of my trusty Oxford English Dictionary. Eureka! “Faze” isn’t in dictionaries of slang because it isn’t slang, and it is far from new — it first appeared in its current form in 1890. An earlier form, “feeze,” dates back to the 9th century, and comes from the Old English word “fesian,” which meant “to drive away.” The first citation for the “faze” spelling comes from The Columbus Dispatch in Ohio in 1890, and is worth noting: “This blow, altho a fearful one, did not faze me” — words to live by.

2 comments on this post.
  1. Greenwick:

    Very odd, I have only ever seen it spelled as phased. I bet a lot of people have grown up with the mispelling now. :(

  2. Rob:

    I believe you are thinking of “phase” as in a period of time; such as “we are in a rebuilding phase”. But that is a different word. This word has to do with being stunned or shocked: “People are going to talk about you, and make things up. If you’re fazed by it, you’ll go insane.” -Evangeline Lilly

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