If someone calls you a pompous old fuddy-duddy you will no doubt take offense.
This term meaning stuffy and old-fashioned might well sound like a stuffy old-fashioned expression, but it has only been around for a short time really – well around 100 years, which is recent when you think that so much of our language has its origins in ancient times.
Like many phrases, its history is not clear. While it sounds very English, its first appearance was in America around 1890, but its origins could well go back to Scots dialect.
Duddy was a Scottish word meaning ‘ragged’ perhaps from duds meaning ordinary clothes. Fuddiel is a form of ‘fellow’ – hence we have a ragged fellow.
There were a couple of characters who appeared in the Boston Evening Transcript in the 1890s called Fuddy and Duddy, but whether they were named because of an already-known phrase we do not know.
How the two words ended up together and with the meaning of an old stick-in-the mud is also unclear, but as we like to play with our language, it was probably the sound of it that was most appealing.
Bugs Bunny’s foe, Elmer Fudd was probably named with the expression in mind. He was a rather cranky and conservative character.