Ever feel like you need an extra oomph in your life? Whether it’s your hairstyle, or your clothes, or even your home, sometimes we feel more like a Plain Jane than a Fancy Nancy. Luckily, you have the perfect phrase to describe what you want to your hairstylist or interior decorator: you want to zhuzh it up.
To zhuzh something up meant that you’re kicking it up a notch. It’s splurging for some highlights instead of your monthly gray cover-up, or adding some hot pink throw pillows to your cream-colored couch. It’s not an overhaul, like a makeover — it’s just adding that extra something to make you stand out.
The word zhuzh looks more intimidating than it really is. Just start with a soft /j/ sound (like the /g/ in deluge or genre), then /oo/ (as in book or good), then another soft /j/ sound. J+oo+j = zhuzh.
Zhuzh is more of a spoken word than a written one, so you may also see alternate spellings (zhoosh, zush, tzhuj, tszuj, shuzh, and so on). While zhuzh is the more popular spelling, it doesn’t really matter how you write the word out, as long as you say it with the right amount of attitude.
The roots of zhuzh aren’t quite clear. It could be a fun interpretation of the word whoosh, as in “the noise you make when you rush around the house to make it fabulous.” It could also come from an Eastern European language, such as Romani or Yiddish. But no matter its etymological origin, we know that the usage of zhuzh began in the gay community. It was popularized in the early 2000s by fashion expert Carson Kressley from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, who prefers the tszuj spelling.
Like an attractive ottoman or concealer stick, zhuzh is versatile for your everyday needs. You can use it as a verb, as in “Let’s zhuzh this place up with twinkly lights” or “I need to zhuzh up my outfit with some dangly earrings.” It also works as a noun, as in “Your apartment needs a little zhuzh” or “Add some zhuzh to your hair before your interview.”
Take a look around your home or office (and in the mirror). See anything that you can zhuzh up a little bit? There are zhuzh opportunities everywhere, including:
- your car (add some decorative dice or a flowery air freshener)
- your hair (feather braids or frosted tips could come back any moment)
- your office (toss those boring family photos away and add adorable tchotchkes)
- your phone contacts (give everyone fun nicknames, like “Sarah, Warrior Princess”)
- your bedroom (drape some scarves around wooden furniture and headboard)
Need even more zhuzh in your life? Add these words to your next text for a real conversational zhuzh: