Humdudgeon is an interesting Scots word I came across the other day on TikTok.
Can you guess what it means?
Here are some possibilities:
- a species of duck
- a fuss or needless complaint
- a children’s game
- a tool for extracting stones from cows’ hooves
It is in fact a fuss or needless complaint, a big stupid person of an evil disposition, or a bungler. In the plural it means a fit of sulks. Here are some examples of how it’s used:
- Dinnae ye be giein me ony ae yer humdudgeon
Don’t give my any fuss
- I would never be making a hum-dudgeon about a scart on the pow.
I would never make a fuss about a cormorant on the pool
- You’re a fearful humdurgeon
You’re a fearful bungler
Hum comes from the Middle English hummen (to hum, buzz, drone, make a murmuring sound to cover embarrassment), which is probably of imitative origin [source].
The origins of dudgeon are uncertain. It possibly comes from the English word dudgen (something worthless, trash, contemptible), or from the Italian word aduggiare (to overshadow) [source].
If you’re in high dudgeon you’re indignant and enraged or if you leave in high dudgeon you do so resentfully or furiously. Can you also be in low dudgeon (generally happy and content) or even in in mid dudgeon (more or less happy but somewhat angry as well)?
To me, High Dudgeon sounds like a quiant little village somewhere in the southwest of England where the residents are relentlessly indignant and enraged about everything. While in nearby Low Dudgeon people are much more chilled.
A photo of Lower Slaughter, a real village in the Cotswolds in the southwest of England, not far from Upper Slaughter. The slaughter part of their names comes from the Old English word slothre (a muddy or miry place) [source], which probably comes from slóh (a slough, hollow place filed with mire, a pathless, miry place) [source]