I'm fiddling around with a piece of prose that my other half once wrote, trying to get it translated to English.

The text is basically an inner monologue. After a burst of (verbal) aggressiveness, the "inner" speaker gradually gets hold of himself/herself, and despite the fairly reasonable content of what has been said, he/she is left with a certain sense of remorse due to the severeness of his/her manners.

At that point he/she says something like:

-A stupid grit is all that's left...

Now, that was just my very first attempt to render the sentence; but I know that grit [courage and resolve; strength of character (Oxford D.)] isn't quite the word I'm looking for. It's just familiar enough to be used without noticeable hesitation.

I asked a reliable elder for a piece of cyber-advice and he recommended foolish bravado.

I objected, saying that "bravado" gives me the impression of a slightly masculine word, whereas I'm looking for something unisex, so to speak. Eventually I got convinced my impression was wrong, but "bravado" still sounds a bit "cowboy" in my (European) ears, probably due to its phonetic resemblance to Rio Bravo and its overall Spanish/Mexican features.

For now, I've changed grit to chutzpah, meaning "extreme self-confidence or audacity" (again, according to Oxford D.).

But whereas grit was a bit too close to courage (which can hardly be a bad thing), chutzpah seems to be at the other end of the spectrum, connoting excessiveness (which is rarely a good thing).

I felt I'd like something more ambiguous. So I eventually stumbled upon this word:

mox·ie (mŏk′sē)
n. Slang
1. The ability to face difficulty with spirit and courage.
2. Aggressive energy; initiative:
3. Skill; know-how.

Macmillan is more concise about it: energy, confidence, and determination. It does however tell you that apart from being slang, the word is also old-fashioned.

And I wouldn't want to use outdated language.

The triplet of possible interpretations does, however, serve my intentions perfectly, aggressive energy (2) being a potential downside of an overall courageous character...

Thus comes my question: what would be an accurate modern equivalent of the word moxie, able to connote all three aforementioned aspects of someone's personality?

And I'm not looking for anything offensive, like b@ll$ or whatever. Just a pertinent word one might hear "on the street", with a fair share of potential to fit in this sentence:

A stupid ***** is all that's left.
(kinda muttered in a state of confusion; a stalemate between pride and remorse).

  • Did you not consider aggression (you used aggressiveness in your question)? Commented Nov 24, 2016 at 1:08
  • Well, I personally really like the word chutzpah, but I don't see how any of these words you proposed fit in the sentence. Commented Nov 24, 2016 at 1:11
  • 1
    I like "grit" because of its multiple, intentionally vague meanings in this intentionally uncertain context, including the grade (coarseness) of sandpaper, gritting one's teeth (in irritation or stoic silence), stray bits of sand encountered in a foodstuff (a dreadful sensation of grit), as well as the possibility of so-called "True Grit" (John Wayne, 1969; Jeff Bridges, 2010; Charles Portis' novel, 1968), etc. That is, unless you want to infuse a Yiddish flavor, of course, then chutzpah seems closer than moxie. It's all up to you. "A stupid grit is all that's left" works perfectly for me. Commented Nov 24, 2016 at 1:57
  • @aparente001 Well I have tried to explain my context as thoroughly as possible. That said, the fact remains that the text is a literary one and a certain looseness of expression must be licensed. Still, I may understand that grit doesn't quite qualify after such an adjective as stupid, but chutzpah? I've read foreign affairs columnists criticizing Israel of its stupid chutzpah, but I guess this kind of usage appeared posterior to descriptions of individuals, no? As for moxie, yes, it was somewhat of an experiment, but judging from the answer below, it did get the message through.
    – m.a.a.
    Commented Nov 24, 2016 at 1:57
  • Stupid feistiness works for me. (I googled the exact phrase "stupid chutzpah," and from the quick glance I took, I think those who said it were using stupid to mean goddamn. Maybe that's what you meant, too. I don't think ballsiness can be classified as either intelligent or unintelligent. You're either ballsy or you're not! Just my personal opinion.) Commented Nov 24, 2016 at 2:42

1 Answer 1


A stupid feistiness is all that is left. Feistiness is the state of being feisty, which is defined in the Cambridge English Dictionary as:

active, forceful and determined; Example: She’s a feisty kid who is not afraid to challenge authority

The Oxford Living Dictionaries says in its first definition that feistiness is typically used for someone relatively small:

  1. (of a person, typically one who is relatively small) lively, determined, and courageous: ‘a love story with a feisty heroine who's more than a pretty face’

1.1. Touchy and aggressive:

‘he got a bit feisty and tried to hit me’

Feisty people are often punching above their weight, and can be successful doing so, particularly if they have good judgment. Your character sounds as though he/she is struggling with the consequences of a lapse of judgment.

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    This sounds like a near perfect answer. The adjective does, however, sound a bit more casual than the noun. Is feistiness a word you'll hear "on the street", so to speak? (The Internet has basically been my only means of contact with the English language for quite some time now, so I'm a bit clueless, "register-wise"..)
    – m.a.a.
    Commented Nov 24, 2016 at 1:43
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    My view of the street is pretty limited too. Feisty and feistiness are not words I've heard spoken often and I doubt they are the latest "in" words. Without knowing more about your character, his/her surroundings and social class, it's hard to say whether feistiness would be often heard on the streets they frequent. But these are not rare words.
    – ab2
    Commented Nov 24, 2016 at 9:04

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