Fun Fact April 23, 2020.
23 April 2020
Are you a hot mess? Being described as “hot” could be a compliment. Saying you’re a mess, not so much. So if someone or something is a “hot mess” is that a good or a bad thing? According to Merriam Webster the term hot mess originally referred to a mess that was literally hot—mess in this case being related to the kind served in a mess hall. Before it was anything else, mess was a word for a quantity of food. Reference to a hot mess can be traced back to Snarleyyow; Or The Dog Friend by Frederick Marryat in 1896. Hot mess spent the 20th century mostly shut up in books written in the century prior. But in the early 21st century the term came out of the shadows with renewed vigor.
It’s not at all clear what made hot mess into such a hot 21st century linguistic commodity, but evidence of its progress is everywhere. And the term continues to evolve: while earliest 21st century uses are almost uniformly unflattering—the emphasis is on the mess part—the term has developed a newer meaning, referring to a person who’s disorganized, disheveled, or self-destructive but who is also at the same time “hot,” as in attractive or sexy.