Our son loves glow sticks! In fact, people buy them for him as gifts because he enjoys them so much. Of course, we all know that on occasion, one will not work as well as it’s supposed to and only part of the stick lights up, or maybe even none of it. So, I grab another glow stick and hand it to him so he can “break” another one and tell him, “Sorry son, that one was a dud”. He repeated the word and liked the way it sounded, so over the next couple of days, anytime something didn’t work right, he would use the word dud and had a great understanding of how it should be used! A couple of weeks passed by and we get out a new glow stick about once a week. So, it’s Saturday and we’re pulling out a new glow stick and it didn’t work right, so he says, “Aw man, it’s a dud! It doesn’t work!” I giggled inside myself, the way he said it was so cute. He opened another one and it worked just fine. He didn’t have much else to say about it until yesterday and he asked the question, “Why do they call it a dud when it doesn’t work right Mom?” So, our adventure began and we were off doing research to find the origin of the term. Now that we’re all ed-u-ma-cated, (giggle) I thought I would share with you all what we discovered!
According to Webster.com, the word dates back to 1567 and is from the Middle English dudde. The meanings listed are;
1 plural a : clothing b : personal belongings 2 a : one that is ineffectual; also : failure a box-office dud b : misfit 3 : a bomb or missile that fails to explode. Now, those are just for when you use the word as a Noun! As an adjective, it means of little or no worth and dates back to 1903. And of course, I’m not JUST going to use Webster, so here’s some other information you may find interesting…
According to some Mike and Melanie, some etymologists (people who study the history and origin of language)“The term dud first appears in 1307 as dudde and refers to a `cloak or mantle made of coarse cloth.' In 1508 the term duds refers to `ragged clothing.' In 1825 the word came to be used to describe `a person in ragged clothes,' and in 1908 to describe `a useless, inefficient person or thing.' The latter meaning was transferred during Word War I to `a shell which failed to explode,' i.e. `a failure,' and the failure meaning has been with us since.” Now, if you want to see what else they post, they have new stuff each and every week! You can also ask questions about different words if you want to and under the ‘About’ tab on their page, you can read more about how the site came to be, how it’s influenced the web and more about them!
So, a little further research showed it’s thought that when the word dud was used in World War I, it became the acronym for ‘device unable to detonate’. Whether or not this part is true, I am uncertain. But, given the history of the word, it is easy to see why it has the varied meanings that it does today.
What words do you find interesting? Share your thoughts and information!