Printable Version
Pronunciation: hêm--jên Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: (Scottish) 1. A loud complaint or other loud noise. 2. An imaginary illness. 3. (US Slang) A disagreeable person (according to the Urban Dictionary).

Notes: Today's word is seldom heard in the UK and never in the US, yet it is useful. In its second meaning above, it is the only word I know of that describes the disease a hypochondriac thinks he has. Unfortunately, it is a lexical orphan; not even a derived adjective has made its way into the English vocabulary.

In Play: Meaning No. 2 is the only sense of today's word that appeals to me: "What is the humdudgeon Gladys Friday called in sick about today?" Here's another example: "What kind of humdudgeon has that hypochondriac Dustin Moppet come up with this time?"

Word History: Today's Good Word is clearly made up of two pieces: hum + dudgeon. Back in 19th century Britain hum was a regularly used clipping of humbug "nonsense". A dudgeon is simply a grumpy, resentful mood. "Humbug dudgeon" gets us pretty close to loud complaining about a fake illness. Although there have been many educated and uneducated guesses about the origin of humbug, none of them meet the high standards of the Good Word. The origin of dudgeon is equally dimly preserved. The original Indo-European root might have been ghre(n)dh- "to grind" with a Fickle N. 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 grusti "to crush, pound" and Latvian grauds "grain" come from the same source. The meaning of verb, grit (your teeth) is still close to "grind or grate".

Dr. Goodword,

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