Saturday 12 June 2010

Bedraggled, Bedrabbled and Befuddled

I like to spend my weekends bedraggled, bedrabbled and befuddled; simply because I adore the words.

I love the word bedraggled for two reasons. First, I have a irrational predilection for be-words: bemoaned, befogged and benighted (literally overtaken by night). A fellow called Ammon Shea read the entire OED and among his favourite discoveries was unbepissed, which means not having been pissed upon.

Second, I'm fond (and I know this sounds silly) of the frequentative suffix -le. If you continuously wag your head and dance a jig and bob up and down, then you waggle and jiggle and bobble. If you can't stop putting food in your gob, you gobble. If you keep prating and pissing, you prattle and piddle. I imagine it therefore follows that if you've not been pissed on frequently, you are unbepiddled.

And if you have been repeatedly dragged about, then you are bedraggled.

Bedrabbled is formed in the same way and means almost the same thing: dirty with rain and mud.

Befuddled therefore means that you are fuddled, and everybody knows what fuddling is. What's that, dear reader? You don't know what fuddling is? My word, what a sheltered life you do lead.

Fuddling is drinking. Nobody knows quite where the word comes from. It is not, alas, a frequentative. There is a word fud, but it's a noun and means either buttocks or a woman's pubic hair. No, fuddle is an orphan of mysterious ancestry, but it does produce the lovely word fuddler.

Now, I must be off as I am planning (in the words of The Gentleman's Magazine of 1756) to: "fuddle away the day with riot and prophaneness."

Saturday night with the Inky Fool


  1. You do realise you're responsible for people sitting in front of their computers, saying silly words, and being accused of being somewhat unhinged?

  2. That was always the aim of the blog.

  3. "Blow winds and crackle your cheeks!
    Ye cataracts and hurricanoes spoutle"

    (King Lear)
    (He was unhingled all rightle!
    That's him in the picture, innit . . . ?)

  4. On the contrary that's a picture of me and Mrs Malaprop on Saturday night, luckily a fast-working painter was on hand to record the moment. Paddington looks like that on a Saturday. I look like that on a Saturday. It's something to do with the absinthe and gin. Mrs M always dresses like that on a Saturday, it's her Betty Draper look.

  5. A fuddle, in Derbyshire dialect, is a party so the link to drinking is there, if slightly hidden.