I’ve always had a fondness for the word pate, even before mine was exposed to the elements. My attraction to the word pate includes the words twitterpated and addlepated, so I’m celebrating with a consideration of these two words and their synonyms.
Addlepated came to English in the 1850s along with its cousin addlebrained. Though addle initially meant liquid filth or urine, in time it came to also mean putrid, empty, vain or idle. By 1706, addle added to its quiver of meanings confused, muddled or unsound. It’s this 1706 bunch of meanings that brought about addlepated and addlebrained.
A near-synonym of addlepated is puddingheaded, which showed up in English in 1851, referring to an amiable, yet stupid person. Pudding, the first bit of this compound word, came to English either through West Germanic languages meaning to swell (related to pudgy), or through Latin & French, referring to sausage (related to purse).
The 1850s also gave birth to muddleheaded. The word muddle came to English in the 1590s, meaning literally to bathe in mud, & figuratively, to destroy clarity. It appears to have come from the Dutch word moddelen, which means to make water muddy.
Twitterpated, on the other hand, has more to do with the heart than with the head. Twitterpated first appeared in the 1942 Disney classic, Bambi. It appears that screenplay writer Larry Morey coined the word, adding pate to twitter, which means in tremulous excitement or romantically infatuated. He may have been inspired by the word flutterpated, born in 1894 & of the same meaning.
A wonderful two-syllable synonym for twitterpated is agog, which made its way from French to English as early as the 1400s, meaning heated with the notion of enjoyment or longing.
A second two-syllable synonym is dotty, which came to English in the 1400s in the form of dottypolle (polle meaning head – the same root from which tadpole comes). It appears to be based on the word dote, and means silly with desire.
Our final two-syllable synonym for twitterpated is smitten, which meant struck hard or afflicted with disaster when it came to English in the 1200s, but a mere four centuries later picked up the meaning inspired with love. I suppose some folks might claim the old and new meanings are synonymous, though I am fortunate to have had more positive smitten experiences.
Dear readers, any thoughts on all this? Any favorite terms from the collection above? Please leave a note in the comments section.
My thanks go out to this week’s sources: OED, Etymonline, Full TV Movies & Wordnik
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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