Yikes! I was browsing through the Online Etymology Dictionary for -le frequentatives the other day, as you do, and eventually arrived at the etyolomogical definition of feisty (I was looking for “fizzle”, but one’s as bad as the other, frankly).
feisty 1896, “aggressive, exuberant, touchy,” Amer.Eng., with -y (2) + feist “small dog,” earlier fice, fist (Amer.Eng., 1805); short for fysting curre “stinking cur,” attested from 1520s, from M.E. fysten, fisten “break wind” (mid-15c.); related to O.E. fisting “stink,” from P.Gmc. *fistiz- “a fart,” said to be from PIE *pezd- (see fart), but there are difficulties [you can say that again!]. The 1811 slang dictionary defines fice as “a small windy escape backwards, more obvious to the nose than ears; frequently by old ladies charged on their lap-dogs.” Cf. also Dan. fise “to blow, to fart,” and obsolete English askefise, lit. “fire-blower, ash-blower,” from an unrecorded O.N. source, used in M.E. for a kind of bellows, but originally “a term of reproach among northern nations for an unwarlike fellow who stayed at home in the chimney corner” [OED].
fizzle (v.) 1530s, “to break wind without noise,” probably altered from obsolete fist, from M.E. fisten “break wind” (see feisty) + frequentative suffix -le. Related: Fizzled; fizzling. Noun sense of “failure, fiasco” is from 1846, originally U.S. college slang for “failure in an exam.” Barnhart says it is “not considered as derived from the verb.” The verb in this sense is from 1847.
All I can say is, ladies, if anyone ever calls you “feisty”, biff ’em one on the schnozzle.
By Marian Dougan