Printable Version
Pronunciation: fo-gee Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: An old-fashioned person of conservative, outdated tastes and attitudes, usually referring to men.

Notes: We may spell today's Good Word with or without the E: fogey or fogy. If you spell it the latter way, the plural is fogies. If you spell it the former way, the plural is fogeys. Some people think that fogeys must be old men, which explains the most common way we hear it 'old fogeys/fogies'. English speakers have been saying 'young fogey' since at least the 1830s, and this usage became widespread only in the 1980s. We have several members of this word's derivational family: fogyish, fogyism, and we may refer to the class of fogeys as fogydom.

In Play: Now that we know that fogeys are not just old, we may say things like this: "Conservatives are encumbered by the old fogeys wanting to return to the world they are familiar with and young fogeys wanting just to put the brakes on progress." Still, we hear the word most often with the epithet "old": "Marlin is an old fogey who still writes with a pencil and paper."

Word History: This word clearly meant "old" before the meaning shifted in the 80s. It may have come from a mispronunciation of foggy in either archaic sense of that word: "fat, bloated, spongy" or "grown over with moss". Actually, I can see how the first meaning of this word could have derived from the second. Fog once meant (1) "flab, fat" and (2) "long grass left standing after haying". However, the verb, to fog, meant in the 18th century "to come to be overgrown with moss". Since moss is spongy, and spongy is close to flabby, there might be a connection there. Fog in its second sense came from PIE pu- "to rot, decay". Since the long grass after haying was left to rot, a connection could be here. PIE pu- came to be pus in Latin and puon "pus" in Greek. In English it emerged as filth and file, as in defile. All this is pretty good guesswork, but only guesswork. (Let's now thank Eileen Opiolka, who might be a fogey—I don't know—but she certainly recommends durable Good Words like today's.)

Dr. Goodword,

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