The Dudgeon-o-Meter: How High Is Your Dudgeon?

The dudgeon-o-meter: communicating at low, medium-low, medium-high, and high dudgeon

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 until I was no longer in high dudgeon to send a complaint email (about the rodent infestation on a psych ward I was an inpatient on). 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: “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 highgreatdeep, 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 it’s 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 a note to my hospital psychiatrist (which you can see in the post A Dickless Prick: A Letter to My 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.

The dudgeon-o-meter

While no one seems to talk about any dudgeon level but high, I think it can be useful to consider a range of emotional 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 can 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 none 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?

81 thoughts on “The Dudgeon-o-Meter: How High Is Your Dudgeon?”

  1. I like this post Ashley…

    I love the dudgeon-o-meter, and when my dudgeon is high, I can become very ferocious… and it is not good for whoever is on the receiving end… therefore, as you say… it is prudent to wait until I’ve calmed, had time for things to settle before attempting to open my mouth or write…

    I have gradually got better with this over time. I think I have a dudgeon reserve also, and therefore, when triggered the right way, it can be
    exceptionally difficult to get back to base.

    It is better if I can catch myself and recognise before I hit the high dudgeon…
    Otherwise we are talking anywhere from hours to days to get back to low again…

  2. Hi! I’ve been reading your blog for awhile but never commented. You liked a blog I used to have and that’s how I found you. I’m soo grateful I have. You really speak to me. Thank you for this post. I’ve been at High level with my brother but it’s lasted years! Nice to know there could be other levels! Thanks and keep fighting! You’re so strong and it is inspiring!

  3. Oh God this is so helpful for me hahaha. Just today I needed to use these tools to step back from a statement a colleague made. My ADHD brain gets really annoyed when people say things that are wrong about something–even when it comes from a place of misunderstanding. Which is all too common for all of us! I definitely will head straight for medium though haha. Great post as always!

  4. I think with the amount of anxiety and irritability I currently posses, I’m living my life hanging out between high and medium on a daily basis 😬🙈
    Maybe I should work on that 🤣

  5. So funny: I love a clever turn of phrase.

    I’m not sure I have high dudgeon. I think I have low dudgeon followed by stapler-throwing rage. I also have a nasty tongue at times; I tend to follow your advice and stay away from people until I calm down.

    One trick that has saved me from inadvertently sending blistering and over-the-top missives is my habit of leaving the email address line blank. You can’t “accidentally” send it before you’re ready that way. It might have happened once upon a time 😅

      1. Okay I didn’t read ALL the comments (there are about 65 of them now) but how did this go from a discussion about anger and rage to cock names? Cock holster. Hmmm… isn’t that a jock strap (it is in the USA)… 😝

        1. I linked to several of my previous playing with words posts, including the one I did on slang for bumpin’ uglies. According to Urban Dictionary (not that it’s the most reliable source in the world), it’s Marine Corps slang for mouth, and I guess spread more broadly to use as the mouth being a receptacle…

  6. I definitely think of C with high dudgeon… which is why she’s blocked. She’d certainly strategically twist everything into Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim and Offender.

  7. How do you manage your own dudgeonry, and at what level do you think you communicate most effectively?

    This ‘problem’ is at the very heart of my on-going therapy. I have gone through a spectrum of ‘dudgeons’ from “high” or “higher than high” (and that one is where the person the dudgeon is directed at tells themselves “Okay, back away, slowly, don’t make eye contact nor any sudden moves”; to where I’m almost at now ‘ medium low”. In the day my dudgeons have cost me jobs, relationships, friends, family. Dudgeon might even be one of the symptoms of BPD, or if not, they ought to add it.

    It’s very hard to control one’s temper when one feels threatened, insulted or disrespected in BPD people and the resultant explosion can be physical and violent to my own preference when the higher than high dudgeon would appear; I’d never DO anything physically, save once;(assault charges and such are not for me), also I had trouble confronting people and honestly couldn’t tell the difference between a valid response to threats etc. and an ill-thought out remark. Both situations would result in the target getting a poison pen letter of some ilk. They were toxic. One employer who received one where prudence ought to have won the battle and I ought to have kept silent; was heard to remark to the whole company “That was the meanest and most hateful piece of mail I’ve ever personally received! Obviously I lost my job.

    I think I did that because through therapy and over the years of therapy, I pinpointed my ability to communicate in a healthy way as nil. I’ve had to learn the skills that others get as children (I suppose) or innately have to start with. My mother with the same diagnosis as me never got the insight and never learned to communicate without attacking (both physically as she got older!, verbally, and through the written word.) Her narcissi tic sister did the exact same things, only, being narcissi tic, her actions, words and letters were more cruel and vile.

    Dudgeon is a family ‘thing’ because a lot of my generation of that tree have it, and some of the next generation too (my nephews and nieces). One thing they ALL have, and one reason I’m probably shunned now is that I’m an example of how broken our communication line is. I never mention this to my siblings of course. I don’t think they’d listen (they wouldn’t), and their children certainly wouldn’t, most of the children (now adults) think they’re ‘normal’. Having first hand experience of bad communication skills, I know better. But knowing ‘when to hold ’em” is a big step in dialing back the dudgeon IMO.

    Sorry for the long ramble. I hope you and the piggies are doing well in the aftermath of your days in psych hell. Take care!

    1. I’ve heard others with BPD talk about going from zero to explosive very quickly.

      Dudgeon has been an issue on my dad’s side of the family, and there are some messed up communication patterns going on there. My dad has broken off contact with various family members as a result. My mom is really mellow, though, and luckily I absorbed some of that to balance out some of the dudgeon-proneness from my dad’s side.

  8. Reading this, I realize that I use my husband as a dudgeon pressure release valve. Like I’ll rant to him about all the shit I would love to say to someone else I’m furious with, but that I would never say to another person. [examples: telling some of our parent-friends to their face that they that are fucking morons in their parenting (they are, in fact, idiots), or all the things I would have liked to say to my former coworker whom I hated but wouldn’t because I didn’t want to get fired. But man, I fucking hated this woman!]

    This pressure release valve system works reasonably well until I want to say horrible things to him when I’m in high dudgeon – either he ignores me because he thinks I’m really angry at someone else (because how could he do anything wrong?) or he gets mad right back and dishes it right back. It may be worth rethinking this strategy.

  9. I would have say for me when I am in high mode I just need to back away for a couple of days cause I can’t guarantee how I will react. Nine times out of ten if I don’t stop and think I will regret my action later/

  10. High dudgeon, never low dudgeon. Good point, I never thought about that before. I think I’ve probably used the word once in my life. It’s under appreciated, for sure, but it’s hard to really get into a conversation if you’re talking about yourself. “Argh, I’m experiencing incredibly high dudgeon today”. It doesn’t work. I guess maybe it’s just for describing someone else, the he/she/they statement when you want to be a little more eloquent than saying “they’re offended and pissed off”.

    Or at least that’s what I thought, until reading your post.

    Now I will start saying “I’m too busy to talk right now, I’m wallowing in dudgeonry”, or that “be nice to me, because I’m feeling tempted to generously spread my dudgeonry around”. I’ll have to give it more thought. What I’m pretty sure of is that I’m always on the high dudgeon alert these days. I started drafting a letter to my solicitor and it is a little bit (very) harsh. The high dudgeon is on full display! I’ll probably water it down when I finally, slowly finish the damn thing in the next year. But you know how good it feels to just get it off your chest, so to speak, like you did with the dickless prick, consequences be damned.

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