Though these days the term wordmonger refers to "a writer or speaker who uses language pretentiously or carelessly," please join me in proposing a new meaning. A fishmonger appreciates and promotes fish, therefore, a wordmonger does the same for words.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

From Addlepated to Twitterpated

From Addlepated to Twitterpated

I’ve always had a fondness for the word pate, even before mine was exposed to the elements. My attraction to the word pate includes the words twitterpated and addlepated, so I’m celebrating mid-April with a consideration of these two words and their synonyms.

Addlepated came to English in the 1850s along with its cousin addlebrained. Though addle initially meant liquid filth or urine, in time it came to also mean putrid, empty, vain or idle. By 1706, addle added to its quiver of meanings confused, muddled or unsound. It’s this 1706 bunch of meanings that brought about addlepated and addlebrained.

A synonym of addlepated is puddingheaded, which showed up in English in 1851, referring to an amiable, yet stupid person. Pudding, the first bit of this compound word, came to English either through West Germanic languages meaning to swell (related to pudgy), or through Latin & French, referring to sausage (related to purse).

The 1850s also gave birth to muddleheaded. The word muddle came to English in the 1590s, meaning literally to bathe in mud, & figuratively, to destroy clarity. It appears to have come from the Dutch word moddelen, which means to make water muddy.

Twitterpated, on the other hand, seems to have more to do with the heart than with the head. Twitterpated first appeared in the 1942 Disney classic, Bambi. It appears that screenplay writer Larry Morey coined the word, adding pate to twitter, which means in tremulous excitement or romantically infatuated He may have been inspired by the word flutterpated, born in 1894 & of the same meaning.

A wonderful two-syllable synonym for twitterpated is agog, which made its way from French to English as early as the 1400s, meaning heated with the notion of some enjoyment or longing.

A second two-syllable synonym is dotty, which came to English in the 1400s in the form of dottypolle (polle meaning head – the same root from which tadpole comes). It appears to be based on the word dote, and means silly with desire.

Our final two-syllable synonym for twitterpated is smitten, which meant struck hard or afflicted with disaster when it came to English in the 1200s, but a mere four centuries later picked up the meaning inspired with love. I suppose some folks might claim the old and new meanings are synonymous, though I am fortunate to have had more positive smitten experiences.

Dear readers, any thoughts on all this? Any favorite terms from the collection above? Please leave a note in the comments section.

My thanks go out to this week’s sources: OED, Etymonline, Full TV Movies & Wordnik


  1. Ahaha, twitterpated!! I grew up with "Bambi", and now, some 12 years later, my friends and I use it for that first phase of relationships, when the couple is rather obsessed with each other.

    I'd only heard "dotty" in the British sense of "slightly mad." P.G. Wodehouse used it to refer to his main character's aunts: "Dotty Aunt Dahlia."

    But smitten...I will always love smitten.

  2. I knew addlepated, but I did not know it's connection with a bodily function. Twitterpated is new to me--I only saw Bambi once and it terrified me as a child--but I just love that word. Flutterpated too. I'll have to use them somewhere.

    I think smitten is what happens when Cupid smites you. I think Roman gods were allowed to smite like the old Testament one, weren't they? Dotty is a great word. As Rachel does, I associate it with P.G. Wodehouse characters. And I suppose it's related to "dotage" which is a more polite word for senility.

  3. Hi Anne & Rachel6,
    Thanks for coming by & pondering with me. Yes, smitten is a fine word, though it clearly had a violent & checkered past. And dotty & dotage are indeed cousins.

  4. Puddinghead. Ha! I love that one. I think I will use it. Twitterpated is a wonderful word and smitten is a wonderful feeling. At least in its current usage. Thanks, Charlie for another entertaining post.

  5. Actually, Christine, now that you mention it, what with the school year approaching its end, I find myself quite puddingheaded -- mostly amiable, yet pretty darned stupid.