Wednesday, February 15, 2023

What is a Fice?

 In a book about frontier life:

“When a boy, he went coon hunting one night, accompanied by two hounds, a cur, and a small fice."

What is a fice?  Google did not know.


  1. I found this using the Qwant search engine:

    "small dog" was all it had. Could be anything I suppose.

  2. A small, snappy, belligerent, mixed-breed dog.

  3. "Fice , Fise , ( fais ) . A worthless dog , a cur . Virginia and the southern States . Common , though I have not met with it in print , except in a Choctaw - English Vocabulary from a southern mission - press , 1852."
    From the book :On Early English Pronunciation
    With Especial Reference to Shakspere and Chaucer ; Containing an Investigation of the Correspondence of Writing with Speech in England from the Anglosaxon Period to the Present Day, Preceded by a Systematic Notation of All Spoken Sounds by Means of the Ordinary Printing Types · Volume 4
    By Alexander John Ellis · 1874

  4. fice, a varient of feist = small yappy mongrol dog. Due to smaller size likely less threatening than the cur but likely more annoying. Both would, presumably, be less well behaved than the two hounds.

    Is your book from the time when "frontier" was still east of the Mississippi? I associate the term more with the south than the west.

  5. not my area of expertise, but under the Wikipedia entry for Feist

    it says:
    Abraham Lincoln wrote about the "fice" dog in his poem, "The Bear Hunt". William Faulkner mentions the "fice dog" in The Sound and the Fury, but uses the spelling "fyce" in the stories "Was" and "The Bear"

    I found the Abraham Lincoln poem "The Bear Hunt", here:

    the poem says:
    The tall fleet cur, with deep-mouthed voice,
    Now speeds him, as the wind;
    While half-grown pup, and short-legged fice,
    Are yelping far behind.

    I read the Sound and the Fury in university and enjoyed it, but I can't seem to find my copy.

  6. If you ask "dog term fice" you get this:
    feist dog; Noun . fice dog (plural fice dogs) (US, regional) a small snappy belligerent mixed-breed dog. 1873: Joseph S. Williams, Old Times in West Tennessee: Reminiscences—Semi-historic—of Pioneer Life and the Early Emigrant Settlers in the Big Hatchie Country

  7. "Feist" is how it should be spelled and will return good results when searched. I note also that the way the sentence is punctuated, he had a total of four dogs with him :-)

  8. Is fice a real word?
    or fist. Also fice, fyce [fahys] . Chiefly South Midland and Southern U.S. a small mongrel dog, especially one that is ill-tempered; cur; mutt. South Midland U.S. to prance or strut about: Look at him feist around in his new clothes.

  9. Clayton, may be an misspelled Fiest (fiesty little dog)