Thursday, 18 April 2013

Befuddle


GUEST POSTING BY KATIE DWYER

BEFUDDLE

Verb trans. L19.
[from BE- + FUDDLE verb origin unknown]

Make stupid through drink etc.; confuse, bewilder.

There is something delightful in the word befuddle; it evokes a kind of bumbling confusion and overwhelmed head-shaking. I think a lot of this rests in its suffix, the fuddle portion or, even better, fuddled, which sounds to me like a red-faced older gentleman muttering to himself while trying to use an iPhone for the first time. This sense of the word sounding right is called phonosemantics, and befuddle is one of my favorite examples. If I could reach into someone's head and just fuddle up their thoughts, they'd end up all befuddled.

Or, in the case of this delightful series of drawings, the confusion might arise if you ask a dog to perform some highly-specialized skill, such as sitting. Befuddling indeed.

Katie Dwyer

The Befuddled Dog from Hyperbole and a Half
(he's a charming but rather dim dog - you really should visit him)

Many thanks to Katie for writing Lexicolatry's first guest posting! She is an American currently living in Ireland where she is studying Human Rights Law and pursuing her interest in creative writing. While she says she's always had a profound interest in words, she does get particularly excited when discussing the linguistic differences of trans-Atlantic English  (I'm attempting to train her to pronounce both aluminium and herbs correctly, but there's still a long way to go). Please give Katie a warm logophilic welcome, and hopefully there'll be lots more posts from her to come. Ed.

13 comments:

  1. Now that's a word I really like. I have been befuddled on many occasions though never because of drink, perhaps more likely because of a lack of such. And Katie were you to reach inside my head I think you would emerge in a permanent state of befuddlement and go through life with the same expressions as that adorable dog in the illustrations ;-)

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    1. You've never been befuddled from drink? Ever? Never never never? That's ... umm ... amazing : o )

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  2. Thank you for that enlightenment! I was wondering if it was Irish in origin. Possibly not. But I do know there is a tendancy to say - I am going to be doing that ... or begorrah (!) - as I sit here in Ireland contemplating this. Then I like the connection with drink. And dogs. Thanks!

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  3. Thanks for introducing me to phonosemantics Katie. My gentle, kind, but ever-disconnected Grandad would certainly have made a good entry in some sort of illustrative dictionary under the word 'befuddled'.

    Does 'disgruntled' count as one? Actually, Ed or Katie, when you get to 'd' could you do that one? I have always liked the Wodehouse description of Bertie's mood as not disgruntled, but neither 'gruntled' either.

    - clueless ( apologetically and impetuously leaving grammatically and linguistically flawed replies on a truly excellent blog about words and language)

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    1. clueless, I am so sorry it has taken me these many months to write back. Thank you for your kind and thoughtful response!

      And yes, I think "disgruntled" is a must-do for Lexi.

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  4. Welcome Katie! I enjoyed reading your post! :)

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  5. So either this is the cutest word ever invented to describe being confused, just because it sorta looks like cuddles, or it's the cutest because of that dog. Pretty sure it's the dog.

    Congrats on this guest-post, Katie! Loved reading it ^^

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  6. Loved this post, Katie. I had no idea there was a legitimate description for a word that simply sounds right - phonosemantics - consider my linguistic life forever altered.

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    1. I love phonosemantics--it's so nice to be able to have a real word to describe that sense of "it just sounds right."

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  7. Yes - I loved it, and I loved the cartoon you picked. For Clueless, yes of course we'll do 'disgruntled', though you'll have to wait a while : o )

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  8. I guess the word "befuddled" predates Elmer Fudd...unlike the modern usage of "nimrod" to mean "simpleton", which might be directly tied to him. Maybe.

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  9. Thanks everyone for the kind comments on this long-ago guest post! Back in the day I was too irrationally shy to respond. But here's a belated thank-you for your welcome, and I'm very glad to be a continuing part of the Lexicolatry community!

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