For much of the United States, winter has hit in a big way, with too much snow, frigid temperatures, and wind gusts that make it unpleasant to step outside. A week or two I can take, but when it drags on and on, I can feel the doldrums setting in. Have they hit you, too?
I was thinking about that word today – doldrums. It’s obviously plural so it made me wonder: Can one have a single doldrum or do they only come in sets?
As is usually the case when I ponder a word, I have to look it up to see when it originated and why. So I hoisted my ginormous Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary off the shelf and began my research.
Doldrums, n. 1. a state of inactivity or stagnation as in business or art; 2. The doldrums, a belt of calm and light baffling winds north of the equator between the northern and southern trade winds in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans; 3. A dull, listless, depressed mood; low spirits. (1795-1805. )Obscure origins, dold, stupid (see dolt) + rum(s) (pl) n. suffix (see trantrum).
Three observations: 1. Why are the winds baffling? Can no one figure out where they come from? Why isn’t there an explanation? Must I look up baffling, too? (See tongue-in-cheek comments.)
2. The word doldrum originated from another word meaning stupid plus a suffix. Would that be stupid-ish? Stupid-ment? Again, no explanation. Come on, Mr. Webster, I need more!
3. Doldrums is preceded by: Dolce vita, Italian, sweet life; the good life perceived as one of physical pleasure and self-indulgence (usually preceded by la). Ergo, I would surmise that too much la dolce vita can bring forth a case of the doldrums. Wait. A pair? A set? A flock?
But I digress.
Digress v.i. 1. To deviate or wander away from the main topic or purpose in speaking or writing; depart from the principal line of argument, plot, study, etc. (1520-30) L. Digressus, ptp of digredi to go off, depart.
But I di . . . Anyway, back to the origins of doldrums, and having been told to see tantrum, I looked up tantrum, only to discover this: Tantrum, n. a violent demonstration of rage or frustration; a sudden burst of ill temper. 1740-50, orig. uncert.
Here’s my theory. The reason that tantrum is associated with doldrums is because they both end with rum, which, when consumed, may help one forget the doldrums and/or calm the tantrum resulting from not finding enough of an explanation from a dictionary entry!
A final observation: If you will note, the word digress, which is widely popular now, originated in the early fifteen hundreds. So if you think you’re really with it when you pause to say, “But I digress,” think again. You’re much better off using a really cool phrase like “Easy peasy,” or “Glam-glam” or “Par-tay!” Am I right?
Ennui: French, n. a feeling of utter weariness and discontent resulting from satiety or lack of interest; boredom. 1660-70, Syn: listlessness, tedium, lassitude, languor.
Someone hand me the rum.
P.S. As part of our Cozy Chicks Love Pets Valentine’s Day celebration, one person will be chosen from the comments on this blog to receive a special gift – a donation to your favorite animal shelter/animal charity group.