I love words, which I suppose is part of why I love writing. Certain words/phrases in particular really float my boat and give me no end of amusement. Earlier this week, I wrote about intending to wait to send a complaint email until I was no longer in high dudgeon, and it turns out that I’m not the only one who loves that word, so why not do a post about it? I think the world needs a dudgeon-o-meter!
What the heck is dudgeon?
Google gives this definition of dudgeon: “a feeling of offense or deep resentment,” and gives the example phrase “the manager walked out in high dudgeon.” And that’s the thing with dudgeon; it only ever seems to be high.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, an obsolete definition is a kind of low-quality wood used to make knife handles (Shakespeare used it in MacBeth in this sense). OED also talks about the same sense as in the Google definition: “Indignation, resentment; umbrage. Chiefly in in (a) dudgeon: in a state or fit of indignation or offence; with indignation or offence.” It adds this usage descriptor: “Frequently with adjective, as high, great, deep, etc. (in later use esp. in high dudgeon).”
According to the Grammarphobia blog, it’s not clear how dudgeon came to mean resentment or why it’s always high. Similarly, the Words Going Wild blog says its a mystery, although it suggests some possibilities.
What should you do with it?
When one is in high dudgeon and those irate, offended juices are flowing, it can be oh so very tempting to start spreading that dudgeonry to anyone who happens to be in the way. But while the words you come up with may be accurate, they’re not necessarily the best words to get the job done. I sometimes get irritable as a symptom of my depression, and that can make me wallow in dudgeonry like a pig in mud (that metaphor doesn’t really work as well as I want it to, but that’s okay).
When I was in high dudgeon, I wrote this note to my hospital psychiatrist. I still agree with everything I wrote (including the dickless prick descriptor), and in that case it was fine because the only outcome I was looking for was discharge based on there being nothing therapeutic left about our relationship, but had I been trying to accomplish any other purpose, my complete lack of diplomacy might have bitten me in the ass.
While no one seems to talk about any dudgeon level but high, I think it can be useful to consider a range of levels, which is why I came up with the dudgeon-o-meter. It includes the following levels and suggested communication strategies:
- High dudgeon: Back the fuck away from your phone, keyboard, or any other communication tool, and stay away for at least 3 days to prevent shooting yourself in the foot/ass/anywhere else
- Medium-high dudgeon: You’re still passionate, and that’s something you can work with, but you shouldn’t be unleashing it on anyone yet, so go ahead and write a draft email, text, or phone script, but wait 5 days before doing anything with it
- Medium-low dudgeon: You’re thinking more clearly at this point, so go ahead and revise that script, but give it another 1-2 days to reflect before acting on it
- Low dudgeon: This is the zone where you an be assertive in an effective way, so go ahead and send that text/email or make that call
- No dudgeon: I actually think low dudgeon is probably more effective than no dudgeon at all, because it’s nice to have a bit of oomph and passion.
So there you have it, folks, the official Dudgeon-o-Meter®. How do you manage your own dudgeonry, and at what level do you think you communicate most effectively?
Here are a few more posts about words that I enjoy: