Here’s a bit of a Greg Brown song I’ve been appreciating these days:
I’m creaking and I’m moaning
like an oak tree limb.
That strong young fellow,
what happened to him?
I got bones,
stiff old bones
I suppose that appreciating such lyrics puts me in the old fogey category.
Fogey (sometimes fogy) appeared in English in the 1780s, and etymologists (some of them, bona fide old fogies, also spelled fogeys) haven’t nailed down its roots. Fogey may have come from a Scottish word meaning Army pensioner, or from any number of English terms — one meaning mossy, another meaning bloated, or the English word fogram, meaning old-fashioned.
Codger appeared in English in 1756, meaning an old, eccentric, miserly man. It most likely came from the word cadger, which means beggar.
A term for an old, incompetent person is duffer. This word showed up in English in the mid-1800s. It may have its roots in the slang term duff — worthless or fake, or in a Scottish word meaning dull or stupid person, which was derived from a pejorative English word for deaf. It wasn’t until the late 1800s that duffer had anything to do with the game of golf.
Geezer came to English in 1885, a Cockney version of the -guise part of disguise. The word geezer originally referred to a mummer (a masked actor performing pantomime). Etymologists assume the word’s modern meaning occurred due to the silent nature of pantomime reflecting the silent nature of some of us geezers.
A fuddy-duddy can — by definition — be young, but is most decidedly old-fashioned. It appears to have come from the late 1800s American English term duddy fuddiel, a term that referred to a ragged fellow. Other variations include fuddydud, fuddie-duddie, & my personal favorite, fudbucket.
So, what do you fellow fudbuckets (or non-fudbuckets, I suppose), have to say about all these geezerly words? Let me know in the comment section.
My thanks go out to this week’s sources: Merriam Webster, Collins Dictionary, Wordnik, & Etymonline.
I write for teens & tweens, bake bread, play music, and ponder the wonder of words in a foggy little town on California's central coast.
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