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When I was younger, my parents would often describe small pieces (~1-3 mm diameter) of lint-like detritus as something whose IPA spelling is approximately pɐ'n(j)uʒɐ, or puh-NEW-zhuh (I hope I have the IPA right). I have tried Googling various English spelling and have failed to come up with anything, and my best guesses are panusia or pinusia. I am beginning to think it is a made-up word, though I quite like it.

Edit for demographic/geographical information:

Both of my parents are approximately 70, both grew up in and around SF Bay Area, CA, as did I. All of my grandparents grew up and lived in the United States. All of my parents and grandparents speak/spoke English as a primary language, and have/had no proficiency in other languages beyond elementary grade school courses, that I am aware of. Our ancestors immigrated a very long time ago, more than three generations, and virtually all of my ancestry is British and central European (Germanic), as far as I am aware. Both of my grandfathers served in the Western theatre during World War II, in case it might be derived or corrupted from an Eastern Asian language. I don't know where either were stationed.

My father has/had several friends of Italian ancestry. He would also use interesting phrases and slang such as padiddle to describe a car with one headlight out. He also enjoyed saying a variant of this interesting chant/song.

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    I've never heard of a word like this. Where did you grow up? What was the linguistic/cultural heritage of your parents (even if they were native speakers, where did their families originate)? – Dan Bron Sep 25 '15 at 19:02
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    Edited to add some information, hopefully some of this helps. I'm also trying to find out from them. My mother, who knows the word, asked a sister and a cousin and neither of them had ever heard it before. – wwarriner Sep 25 '15 at 19:21
  • It does not ring a bell. Lessee: mote, spec, bit, crumb, dot, fleck, fragment, grain, iota, particle, smidgen, speckle, scintilla, jot, whit, shred, crumb, modicum, tad. And (with some dupes): ace, bit, particle, dab, dram, driblet, glimmer, hint, lick, little, mite, nip, ounce, peanuts, ray, scintilla, scruple, shade, shadow, shred, skosh, smack, smell, smidgen (also smidgeon or smidgin or smidge), snap, soupçon, spark, spatter, speck, splash, spot, sprinkling, strain, streak, suspicion, tad, touch, trace. – Hot Licks Sep 25 '15 at 20:16
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    The nearest I can offer is the Spanish word pelusa. It has the right meaning. – chasly from UK Sep 25 '15 at 23:47
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    Traced the song, at least: scoutorama.com/song/song_display.cfm?song_id=1024 – RoseofWords Oct 13 '15 at 2:15
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Are you sure the initial sound was a P ? The word you transcribed might be a mispronunciation of the Italian word "minuzie" meaning "very small things", the way an Anglo-Saxon speaker might pronounce it.

  • There are no speakers of “Anglo-Saxon”, nor ever have been. – tchrist Oct 22 '15 at 20:59
  • Native English speakers? Mother-tongue speakers? No problem – Alessandra Milani Oct 23 '15 at 13:56
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    The "English" word minutiae (same roots) would fit here as well. Also, @tchrist there are, however, Anglo-Saxon speakers of quite a few languages – A C Dec 9 '16 at 18:32

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