• dudgeon •
Pronunciation: 'dê-jên • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: No, today's word has nothing to do with subterranean jails, but rather the mood of someone leaving one: a feeling of angry resentment, indignant or simply ill humor. At one time it also referred to the wood of the boxwood tree, a material favored for the handles of knives and daggers because of its curly grain and unlikelihood to splinter, hence dudgeon-daggers.
Notes: Because this word has fallen into some disuse, it has not developed a family. In fact, it is used today only in the phrase in . . . dudgeon, as in deep dudgeon, in high dudgeon, in great dudgeon. It may also be used as a verb itself: "You haven't been dudgeoning around your boss again, have you?"
In Play: Dudgeons are most often associated with unhappy departures that are usually measured in the extreme by the adjective before the word. In Little Women Louisa May Alcott wrote: "Slamming the door in Meg's face, Aunt March drove off in a high dudgeon." However, dudgeons arise in other situations, too: "I hope it will not put you in a dudgeon if I tell you that your purse doesn't match your dress."
Word History: The origin of dudgeon is covered by a rather thick veil of mystery. The best guess is that it was originally endugine. Then by a process known as 'apheresis', the loss of an initial vowel, it became dugine, and from there, dugeon, perhaps influenced by the spelling of dungeon. Endugine may (or may not) have come from Welsh dygen "malice, resentment" with an enhancing prefix en-, added for what reason, no one knows. If so, it would be related to Cornish duehah, duwhan "grief, sorrow". It is historically unrelated to dungeon so far as anyone knows. (I hope this paltry word history does not put George Kovac, who suggested today's rare but still Good Word, in a high dudgeon or, for that matter, even a low one.)