Word Of The Week: October 24th, 2009

Someone suggested ruddy to me as a Word of the Week, and it really got me thinking. I know ruddy means reddish, or maybe orange-red, like rust, and ruddy, red, and rust all start with r. Do they have a common ancestor, or is it just a strange coincidence? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, ruddy comes down from the Old English rudith, and, although the origins get really complicated, all three words can be traced all the way back to the Sanskrit word rudhira, which means ‘red’.

What I also thought of, though was, how the English will sometimes use the word ruddy almost like a swear word, saying “ruddy weather” when it’s raining and cold out, for instance. I’m pretty sure it’s a replacement for bloody, that wonderful British swear word. I once asked a British guy what he thought would be the American equivalent of bloody, and he said, “Probably damn.” So bloody is a very mild, barely-PG swear word, but sometimes, out of propriety, they feel the need to replace it with ruddy. The American equivalent of ruddy, then would probably be darn. Are the British words better? Consider this: ruddy rhymes with bloody, and ruddy means red, the color of blood.

Darn doesn’t rhyme with damn, and darn also means ‘to repair’—such as darning socks, while damn means ‘to condemn’. In fact damn and condemn come from the same root word, while darn is from somewhere else.

Ruddy swear words.