In last week’s post we considered the words tedium, tedious, lackluster, feckless, snooze, & soporific. This week, as northern hemisphere teachers & students approach or reach that final tedious week of the school year, we will continue in that vein.
Dawdle probably came to English in the 1650s in reference to a bird perceived as silly and foolish, the daw. Then again, dawdle may simply be a variant of daddle, to walk unsteadily. No matter its origins, many folks embrace dawdling during this time of the school year.
In 1794 the word otiose entered the English language. It came from the Latin word otiosus, meaning unoccupied, not busy, or having leisure. It appears to have no relationship at all to the word odious, also of Latin origin, but meaning offensive, unpleasant & hateful.
The phrase to twiddle one’s thumbs first appeared in English in 1846, though its precursor, twiddle, meaning to trifle, showed up as early as the 1540s. Twiddle’s origin is unknown.
In modern usage, dreary means dull, boring, or causing sadness or gloom, & though its original meaning may have been cause for sadness, it was far more dramatic. Dreary comes from the Old English word dreorig, which meant cruel, gory or bloodstained. Its first English usage occurred in Paradise Lost in 1667, & meant dripping blood. I’m guessing that students in their last class of the year & teachers attending that final faculty meeting might be able to make the connection.
Back in 1897 the word slacker entered the language, meaning one who shirks work. It appears to be related to the Old English word sleacornes, which meant laziness. Though the word was re-popularized in the 1990s, slackers have been around forever & for nearly 120 years we have had the word slacker to identify them.
Slackers, otiosity, dreariness, dawdling & thumb-twiddling might all inspire a feeling of world-weariness, melancholy, or pessimism. And, what a surprise, we have a word for that, too. The word weltschmerz arrived in English in 1863 from German, meaning world-pain or world-woe.
So, good readers, when faced with slackers and thumb-twiddlers, or when finding yourself among them, how do you avoid a raging case of weltschmerz?