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Re: Skulduggery

Posted by TheFallen on October 15, 2002

In Reply to: Re: Skulduggery posted by ESC on October 15, 2002

: : : : : I used the word "skullduggery" in an e-mail this morning. I couldn't find it in a dictionary but Word spell-check gave the OK on two Ls. Then I was paging through a library book I got at noon -- "Made in America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States" by Bill Bryson - and happened on the word. Not only did I misspell it, it appears I misused it too. I hate when that happens.

: : : : : Mr. Bryson says "skulduggery" has one L because it comes from the Scottish "sculdudrie," a word denoting fornication. (! ! ! !) Which isn't what I meant at all. I meant plotting and intrigue. Now I'm wondering what the recipient of my e-mail is thinking about what goes on in my office.

: : : : The OED has it as - "underhand dealing, roguish intrigue or machination, trickery" and claims a US origin. It gives several forms of the spelling, so I guess you are on safe ground there. OED even have it as a verb - to skuldug, and quote William Faulkner using it in 1936.

: : : Yes, that describes my office.

: : So you mean to say this has nothing to do with digging up skulls what-so-ever?

: Apparently not.

Both the online American Heritage Dictionary and my shamefully truncated OED give the single and the double L spelling, with the OED also claining that "sculduggery" is a permissible form. Both worthy tomes also agree with Mr Bryson's claimed origins, with my OED rather primly defining the Scots "sculduddery" as "unchastity".

As to ESC's concerns about the opinions of the recipient of her e-mail, can I just reassuringly add that anyone who e-mailed me including such a brazen yet throwaway admission that he/she worked in a modern-day equivalent of the fleshpots of Sodom and Gomorrah would rocket up in my estimation.