Thursday, October 05, 2006

Spuddle: An Excellent Word.

One of the nice things about being a philosopher is that one has to spend a certain amount of time reading old texts. Although the history of philosophy is not my main research area, it is still something I enjoy studying. Often times when studying historical works, it is helpful to read other historical works from around the same period, in order to get a better 'feel' for the general intellectual climate. Today, I was doing just this.

One of my favorite 'background' texts is a rather curious work by one Charles Mackay, published in 1874, called Lost Beauties of the English Language. This book contains all sorts of oddities and surprises and can be quite funny in places. Whilst reading this work today, I ran across a splendid word I had not seen before, the word 'spuddle'. According to Mackay, this is a verb which means,

"To go about a trifling business as if it were a matter of grave importance. To assume airs of importance without occasion."

The OED amplifies this at little telling us that the term means,

"To turn over, dig up, stir or work at, lightly or superficially."

This term seems to be an excellent one, which needs to be brought back from the mere dialectical usage that the OED ascribes to it. I can think of many occasions where this term perfectly describes the activities of my colleagues and also of various bloggers. I cannot count the number of times I have had to listen at length to other professors describing how important their work is, and how they are such great scholars, when I know damn well that they have not published a thing in years. This term also seems quite applicable to the various behaviors of administrators. They seem compelled to think up utterly insane and futile exercises, which are supposed to further some goal or other, but really just amount to a waste of time. Despite the obvious shortcomings of these schemes, the proponents like to set deadlines, hold meetings and go on at great length about the crucial importance of their proposals.

In the past, under these kinds of circumstances and situations, I am always been reminded of the passage from Descartes' First Meditation where he discusses

"...people whose brains are so impaired by a stubborn vapor from a black bile that they continually insist that they are kings when they are in utter poverty, or that they are wearing purple robes when they are naked, or that they have a head made of clay, or that they are gourds, or that they are made of glass." [AT 19]

Now however, I will be able to just note, correctly name and identify cases of spuddling. This I take to be a substantial terminological innovation.

The CP


Blogger ToastedSuzy said...

Spuddling sounds like another euphamism for masturbating.

Because it is!

Thanks for the new word.


11:08 AM  

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