The origin of the birdwatching term ‘jizz’

Published on 08 May 2018 in Main articles

By Jeremy Greenwood and Julian Greenwood

Abstract The term ‘jizz’ was introduced to ornithology by T. A. Coward in 1921. There is no evidence for any other etymology. In this paper we explain the origin and spread of the word. We also examine some false explanations of its origin. In particular, it is simply untrue that GIS or GISS – ‘General Impression and Shape’ (and Size) – were ever used for aircraft recognition and were transferred to birds as ‘jizz’.

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Common Coots Fulica atraon ice, from Hilda Quick’s book Marsh and Shore(Jonathan Cape, London, 1948). In his review of the book in BB, J. Duncan Wood thought that her pictures captured the birds’ jizz (see text); this was the first post-war use of the term found by the authors.