Printable Version
Pronunciation: u-dêlz Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, plural

Meaning: (Slang) Lots, a large amount, very much.

Notes: Kathleen of Norway, who suggested today's word, raises a penetrating question: can there be one oodle? We can have oodles of money, but could I have just one oodle of money? My spellchecker is screaming, "No! No! No!" It seems to me that one oodle raises a semantic contradiction that lot does not: we can have a lot of money or lots of money but not an oodle of money. Why not? If it takes many oodles to make a lot of something, one oodle just doesn't make it.

In Play: In fact, in Australia back in the forties, oodle was used as a mass noun (no plural) referring to money. Our Australian cousins of that era could have had oodles of oodle with which they could buy oodles of poodles. Elsewhere, however, we may only use this word in the plural: "I don't think Constance Noring was very attentive at the meeting today; there are oodles of doodles on her notepad but not a single word."

Word History: It is not clear where oodles originated. It arose in the 1860s at about the same time as its synonym, scads, arose. In fact, these two words were often combined before the turn of the century into scadoodles. The best guess is that oodle is a variant of boodle, a word that floated around the US South for a while. It is probably a clipping of the boodle in the phrase kit and caboodle "the whole thing with all its parts". The plural then comes by comparison with lots, bags, and scads. (We owe Kathleen McCune of Norway oodles of thanks for suggesting today's Good Word with its semantic conundrum.)

Dr. Goodword,

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