Monday, July 30, 2012

Black peppers and lost words

After some disappointingly small peppers ripened I was worried that the pepper crop would be a bust, but they have proved me wrong. They seem to go from flowers to peppers overnight and then keep growing. They are black rather than the advertised lilac-purple, but I find them pleasing.

Here is last night's crop, joined by some windfall green pear tomatoes. Small rain showers swept across the roof. Miniature fried green tomatoes are in my future. And in my past, a ratatouille, for supper last night. There was a summer squash, or striped zucchini, waiting for this lot down below, in the kitchen. The prospect of ratatouille did not thrill me, actually, so I was forced to add bits of pancetta and a fried slice of bread and a red wine reduction to jouge it up.

About that word. Jouge. I have never seen it spelled. Hence I cannot spell it. I have fed every conceivable spelling to Google, which keeps rolling its cyber eyes at me. In Cape Town I would say, This flower arrangement needs to be jouged up (jouge like rouge), meaning, it needs something to make it come to life, to sparkle, to sing. It might be accompanied by a flickering of the fingers...I thought it might be Yiddish. A lot of Yiddish made it into my childhood.

I have no idea where it comes from. I have not thought about it in years. Does anyone know what I'm talking about? Is it in the Oxford Dictionary of South African English? 


  1. Have you tried " Zhush " ?

  2. I spell it "zhoozh." I use it a LOT at work especially!

  3. Yes! Zhuzhing. I also think that it starts with a Z.

    PS, I'm a new reader and I'm very pleased to have found you! I garden entirely in containers as well (though not as prettily as you!) so I'm finding your whole blog quite inspiring. Thanks!

  4. I think its meant to be "Zhoozsh". Jeremy Mansfield and his wife have a cookbook with that name...
    I wonder is its a South Africanism?

  5. Dictionary of South African English on Historical Principles - edited by Penny Silva,published by OUP in 1996.

    Jouj - var. Jewish.

    Not much help

  6. Carol in New MexicoJuly 30, 2012 at 10:13 AM

    Per Helen's comment: I went to
    and found the following definition:
    "Zhoozsh /zhu:zh/ v. S. Afr. Colloq. 1. adaptation and contraction of the word Jewish. Lowly paid African workers utilised the service of Jewish tailors in downtown Johannesburg to extend the life of old clothing by repairing or smartening them. [Orig. early 1900s]. 2. colloq adopted into gay lexicon/culture. The act of enhancing, improving or finessing something to make it stand out (zhoozsh up). "

    I grew up with a Yiddish-speaking grandmother, and never heard the word/phrase, so I'm guessing it's not Yiddish.

    I did find several on-line usages of "jooge" in blogs and a YouTube video with the same meaning you use, but no explanation of where the phrase comes from.

  7. Hi Marie - My French comes in handy here. It's actually spelled "jeuge." It's French for "cheek," which may be the original idea - to cheek something up. The Urban Dictionary defines it as: Verb. To tweak, fluff, primp, improve, make fabulous (most often in wardrobe/ fashion context, but others also apply.

  8. zhushing. did you look in the fabulousness dictionary? it's there. :P

  9. I remember Carson Kressley using that term on "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" -- The Urban Dictionary spells it "tszuj" (no wonder you couldn't find it -- I was only able to find it by looking up "Carson Kressley sleeve" because I remember him telling people to tszuj the sleeves of a shirt or jacket).

    They define it this way:

    To tweak, fluff, primp, improve, make fabulous (most often in wardrobe/fashion context, but others also apply).

    Pronunciation: Begins and ends with the same "zh" sound, as in "measure".

    Made popular by/notable people you may have heard use it: Carson Kressley of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Chef Nigella Lawson, Designer Ralph Lauren.

    Origin: Variations used in many countries like France, Russia, Scandinavia, Germany, Australia, Canada.

    "Just tszuj it a little, and you're set!"

    "Tszuj those sleeves!" as in roll-up and make less stuffy/formal.

  10. Very familiar with the sound and use of the word, but wouldn't dram of trying to spell, altho I am thinking that Carson Kressley is where I have heard it most. Glad you threw it out there for us - look at all the interest it sparked!

    and, I love your black peppers. Part of the joy of summer food is the wonderful colors. It makes winter seem so dull and bland.


    Thank you, everyone.

    More digging reveals several references to its derivation from the Romani, zhouzhou into Polari - with various spellings, NO ONE can spell it (sorry about the shouting, I'm excited.

    jzeusch, zhush, joosh, zhuzh, zhoozh, zhoosh, tjuz

    Polari being the slang of theatre, fairgrounds, circuses, alternative cultures (read gay), sailors?

    Hen - OK, but in the Dictionary of SAfrican English (yay, Penny!) what is the definition of "jouj"?

  12. Growing up in the Midwest (a very long time ago), I was used to using the word “juice” to mean to make something more powerful, faster, or flashy. That seems like a homophone to your *****. From the Internet site “The Free Dictionary,” the Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms (2003) has “to juice up something is to make something more interesting or exciting” and from the McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs (2002), to juice up is “to make something more powerful.” This is a very interesting discussion.

  13. Not that this is at all definitive, but it's what has to say:

    zhush or joosh

    zhush (as in the French je + “oosh”) is a word whose usage dates as far back as 1968 in Britain. Its spelling, much like its origin, is elusive. It has been defined by the American Dialect Society (who placed it on their 2003 Word of the Year List) as a verb to mean “primp or fluff up”. Today, it appears in the pop lingo of certain queer makeover shows to mean “making something striking or flamboyant”.

  14. Jouj - it says just that "var. Jewish" So Jouj is Jewish !

  15. Zhush here too :) Love the black peppers - your choice of variety is always interesting, like those zebra tomatoes. Fabulous colours!


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