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.
Whether one finds the OK Boomer idiom to be hysterical, true, ageist or tacky, it's not new. Granted, OK, Boomer has a very specific usage, however we English speakers have had negative things to say about older people for quite some time.
Curmudgeon entered the English language in the 1570s, & nobody really knows where it came from. Some have posited that the first syllable may come from the word cur, meaning a dog of either vicious or cowardly demeanor, combined with the Gaelic word, muigean, meaning disagreeable person. Sadly, no data supports this. Whether we know its parentage or not, the word curmudgeon is marvelously descriptive. Those of you who appreciate vicious, nasty, or biting quotes should definitely consider The Portable Curmudgeon, by Jon Winokur, which features quotes from notable curmudgeons like Fran Lebowitz, HL Menken, WC Fields, Dorothy Parker, Oscar Levant & others.
More recently, the term geezer has been the word of choice to refer to cranky, old-fashioned people. Geezer entered English in 1885 from the Cockney term guiser, which meant a silent, muttering, or grumbling person.
In the 1580s, the term malcontent entered the language from French. Though the word has no association with old-fashionedness, it did refer (& still does) to a rebellious or complaining person and seems to live in the same grumpworthy category.
A killjoy – another term with no age-association - is a personwho kills joy. This word came to English in 1772, simply by connecting two words that were already in use.
Though the world’s most famous (or infamous) misanthrope was a curmudgeonly chap featured in Moliere’s play, The Misanthrope, the word itself has no direct connection to old ways or old age. It simply means one who hates people (landing it in my generally grumpworthy category). Misanthrope came to the language in the 1560s from Greek.
In 1780 the Scots loaned English their word foggie, which we English–speakers have held onto ever since as the word fogey. The original Scottish word referred to old veterans or pensioners, & may or may not have an association with various root terms for moss, old-fashioned, or bloatedness.
Codger entered the language in 1756, most likely coming from cadger, which means beggar. Cadger’s root, cadge, is of unknown origin.
Americans added fuddy-duddy to English in 1871. Nobody is quite certain of its roots. It meant then – as it does now – old fashioned.
Another American term most of us have lost came from the Carolinas in the 1860s. The term is mossback, & it meant conservative, reactionary, & old fashioned, which referred directly to southerners who refused to join the Confederate army, & instead of joining the cause, hid in the woods “till moss grew on their backs.”
Any opinions about all these curmudgeonly words? Let me know in the comments section whether you feel these words are synonyms for OK, Boomer, or whether it belongs in its very own category.
My thanks go out to this week’s sources: the OED, Wordnik & Etymonline.
I write for teens, narrate audio books, bake bread, play music, and ponder the wonder of words in a foggy little town on California's central coast.
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