Bumfuzzled and Addlepated
I was having a wonderful week until my sister and a friend of mine brought me face to face with the two words leading this weeks column. I couldn’t help but see the definite political relationships in the use of a vocabulary laced with such bon mots (good words). Aware that we are already into an (unofficial) federal election campaign I thought it might be fun to explore some weird wonderful, mostly archaic words and rehabilitate them for the purpose of calling the play-by-play on an election campaign.
Bumfuzzled: Kind of runs off the tongue well. It means to be confused, flustered or perplexed. My source says it’s a word of the mid and southern US, and certainly well suited to liberal use by Samuel Clemens to describe the general state of affairs after an encounter with a politician. It has some delightful connections to a few other words which could have evolved from the English words dumfoozle, and bamboozle, well suited to post politician syndrome.
Addlepated: Certainly seems to be a serious word, old enough too, first used in 1630. It too, means confused, but leans further in definition toward the eccentric. Addlepated may be a very apt description of the Senate’s activities these days.
Cattywampus: A wonderful word which, it seems to me, to be more akin to a pillowfight or some such wonderful practice. Alas, it means that something is askew, awry, out of order. It actually comes from the number ‘four’ side of a die (called a cater) which by connecting the opposing dots, corner-to-corner makes a catercorner. That eventually evolved into the name for crossing intersections corner-to-corner or cattycorner, which is sometimes replaced with kittycorner, and if you’ve ever watched crowds of people try to cross a street like this, you would agree that things were certainly askew, awry or at the least, cattywampus. Kind of like all the MPs leaving Ottawa for their ridings after Thursday’s question period!
Taradiddle and Twattling: I put these two together because they have similar meanings with complementary differences. Taradiddle means pretentious nonsense, and twattling means talking idly and too much. I arranged them because I would like to propose a merger of the two. The word I propose would be Twattlediddling. Here we would have a marvelous blend that leads us right back to the underlying political theme (there’s an election in the air) with a delicious combined meaning of ‘talking too much pretentious nonsense.’
Gardyloo: Nothing confusing about this if you extrapolate the words therein as “guard the loo!” It’s archaic now since people stopped throwing the contents of their chamber pots out of the windows onto the streets of grand old Edinburgh. Before the cessation of this practice, at least the gentle Scots were kind enough to warn everyone what was coming by calling out “Gardyloo!” before launching the contents out of the window. Undoubtedly more civilized than what one could imagine hurtling across the House of Commons, euphemistically of course.
So have a good week and consider that getting too close to politics may leave you both addlepated and bumfuzzled. After suffering the cattywampus of debate and the twattlediddling of policy, little else remains but to GARDYLOOOO folks!