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Fuddy-Duddy : Phrases


A stuffy or foolishly old-fashioned person.



If any term sounded old and British, it must be this one. It appears to be of American origin though and not especially old. It is first recorded in the Texas newspaper The Galveston Daily News, 1889:

"Look here; I'm Smith - Hamilton Smith. I'm a minister and I try to do about right ... I object to being represented as an old fuddy-duddy."

That usage - without any accompanying explanation of fuddy-duddy - seems to suggest that the readership in Texas would have been expected to be familiar with it.

There is a British term - 'duddy fuddiel', which is recorded from a slightly later. William Dickinson's A glossary of words and phrases pertaining to the dialect of Cumberland, 1899, has:

"Duddy fuddiel, a ragged fellow."

There may be a link between the two terms but, as don't mean the same thing, it isn't obvious. Fuddy doesn't have any known meaning outside of this term and it seems more likely that it is derived from fussy and that duddy is just a reduplication. Without more evidence to go on we can't be sure.

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