phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Home | Search the website Search | Discussion Forum Home|


Posted by ESC on October 15, 2002

In Reply to: Skulduggery posted by TheFallen 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.

And it would greatly improve my reputation.