Printable Version
Pronunciation: sêdz Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, plural/mass

Meaning: 1. Froth, foam, crowd of bubbles. 2. (Slang) Beer.

Notes: Suds comes with an adjective, sudsy, that provides a base for sudsiness. It also may be used as a verb, meaning "to lather, wash in soapy water". Sudser is a slang expression for "soap opera". It is treated both as a plural ('too many suds') and as a mass noun ('too much suds'). Because beer has a "head", the foaming bubbles atop a glass of beer that are frequently a point of contention between patron and bartender (too much? too little?), suds has taken on the job of informally referring to beer.

In Play: Suds are not always a product of soap: "Suds on a river is a sure sign of pollutant effluvia upstream." The slang usage of this word appears only in the most informal of settings: "'Twas an afternoon of TV football, suds, chips, shouting, and laughter."

Word History: Today's Good Word was apparently borrowed from Middle Dutch sudse "swamp, bog, marsh" and was used up to Middle English in the singular and in the sense of "mud left by floodwaters". An alternative explanation of its source is that is a mispronunciation of a lexical relative, sod. How the Modern English definition developed from this remains a mystery. Either explanation leads back to PIE seut-/sout- "boil, move quickly", source also of English seethe and German sieden "to boil" and Icelandic sjóða "to boil". (Now's the time to thank David Myer again, for today's common yet fascinating Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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