I usually explore one word per week but when I was musing about trudge, I couldn’t help wondering if -udge is a suffix as it’s pretty easy to find rhymes for trudge – grudge, drudge, fudge, sludge, nudge and so on. As a result you’re getting a bumper dose of Wordfoolery this week. If you’re a poet you should read on as this batch would help you craft a surprisingly downbeat sonnet.
I’m starting with trudge. Regular readers will know that I enjoy hiking. Well, enjoy might be a bit strong. I enjoy having hiking. Sometimes the actual process of getting up the hill is hard work, particularly in bad weather. An instructor on a hiking course I did a few years ago suggested I learn the Noble Art of the Trudge. He reckoned that a slow and steady trudge, without any stops for breath, would get you safely up the hill without stumbles, aching legs, or gasping lungs. This is not natural for me as I like to walk fast, but I’ve been trying it. Now, each time I approach an incline I start thinking about the word trudge.
Where do we get trudge? Sadly, we don’t know, but my hiking instructor wouldn’t like the definition (to walk laboriously). Trudge joined English during the 1500s from an unknown origin. I did find one mention of possible Scandinavian or snow-shoe associations for trudge, but that’s far from official.
Grudge entered English in the mid 1400s, so it’s even older than trudge. It initially described murmuring or complaining and it was a variant spelling of an even earlier word – grutch. Grutch, which isn’t used anymore, also gives us the idea of person being a grouch. Grutch arrived around 1200 as grucchen (complain, find fault, be angry) from the Old French verb grouchier.
By 1400 we’d developed the word begrudge (to concede reluctantly or with envy). There was even a related word in the 1200s, again now out of use, a grucclid – a woman who complains. Might be a handy confusing insult?
Drudge (to work hard at a boring task) arrived in the late 1300s probably from the Old English verb dreogan (to work or suffer). There were similar words in earlier languages such as driogan in Old Saxon, drygia (to carry out) in Old Norse, and driugan (to serve as a soldier) in Gothic but all have that undertone of persisting with unpleasant tasks. Drudge can also be used as a noun, for somebody who is doing such work.
The full story of fudge, the lying ship’s captain who gives us the phrase “fudging the books“, is in my first book “How To Get Your Name in the Dictionary”. He was a terrible man and rightly forgotten as the source of this particular word.
I had assumed that the noun fudge, for that delicious sweet, would have a different origin but it appears that our nefarious Captain Fudge predates the confection. Edible fudge appears around 1895 in American English as slang in female colleges. The theory goes that the recipe for fudge was made up on the spot, much like the lies the captain told and thanks to the common use of fudge at the time to indicate something impromptu.
Whatever the true story, the edible form of fudge is always most welcome in this house.
Sludge is such an evocative word. I can easily imagine a drudge trudging through sludge, for example. It arrived in English in the 1600s to describe mud and ooze (another great word). Its origins are unclear which seems appropriate as it’s often hard to determine the origins of the sludge down the plug hole of the sink. Sludge may be related to slush or the Middle English word slutch (mud).
This is the most recent of my -udge words. Nudge joined the party the late 1700s to describe a slight elbow push, often as a reminder or hint. Nobody told my mother the bit about “slight”. If she nudges you, you stay nudged.
The verb is older though, dating back to the 1600s and possibly with Scandinavian roots as we’ve also got nugge and nyggie in Norwegian (to jostle) and nugga in Icelandic (to rub or massage). I would claim nudge as one the Vikings gave us but honestly a subtle nudge wasn’t really their style.
There you have it, a quick tour of words ending in -udge. Sadly there’s no unifying -udge suffix but they all had a little story behind them.
Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,