Printable Version
Pronunciation: d-jn 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: Today's word is a distant cousin of groats, grounds, and grist, all from the verb grind or its ancestors. The original Indo-European root was *ghre(n)dh- "to grind" with a Fickle N, an N that came and went for no apparent reason. In initial position, [gh] became [f] in Latin, so its verb for "grind" was frendere. Greek khondros "granule, groats" may share the same source. For sure Lithuanian gruzti "to crush, pound" and Latvian grauds "grain" comes from the same source, as does Russian skrezhetat' "to grind (the teeth)". The verb, to grit (your teeth)" still means "to grind or grate". (Prudence Pender gave us a lot of grist to grind in suggesting today's granular Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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