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28 March 2015

Hurkle-Durkle

Over on the HaggardHawks Twitter feed, today’s Word of the Day is hurkle-durkle:
It’s the perfect word for a lazy Saturday morning, and we thought you might like to know a little bit more about it.

Like a lot of the words we tweet about, it’s an old dialect term—in this case from eighteenth century southern Scotland. We first stumbled across it in John Jamieson’s Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language, published in 1808, which defined it as:

To HURKLE-DURKLE, v. n. To lie in bed, or
to lounge after it is time to get up or go to work. 
(Fife.)

Jamieson points to durck or durch—an old Germanic word for the hold of a ship—as the word’s probably origin, and perhaps saw some kind of etymological connection between someone lurking in bed and someone lurking in the dim, grimy bottom of a ship. He should really try changing his bedding more often. But oddly, in reduplicative words like these, it’s often the case that the first part of the word is the original root, to which the second part is added later as a rhyming, humorous or playful addition.

So okey-dokey comes from okay. Hoity-toity comes from the old verb hoit, meaning “to act affectedly” or, according to the OED, “to romp inelegantly”. And ultimately hurkle-durkle might in fact come from the old Scots verb hurkle, or hurkill, meaning “to draw the limbs together close to the body”. From there it’s easy to see where the image of someone cosily curled up in bed, reluctant to get up, might come from.

Unfortunately, as is often the case with regional and dialect words, it’s impossible to say with any certainty which of these two theories—if, indeed, either—is correct without more evidence and research. But alas it’s Saturday. And it’s just far too tempting to stay in bed. 

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