Sunday, August 30, 2009

Pet Peeve du Jour

My pet peeve du jour is use of the word "noodling" as a synonym for "thinking" as in "I was noodling over what to say next . . ." which I just read in Bill Patry's latest salvo in the blogathon debate with Ben Sheffner.  Leaving aside the content of the blog, when did it become permissible to turn a wonderful noun denoting a delicious food into a gerund signifying a hoity toity version of a very user friendly gerund? If one "noodles', one does more than "think", one thinks with an Ivy League intensity that will yield only brilliance but in the guise of the common folk. (sorry Susan Jacoby but I must use the word "folk")

Noodling, in another context, is catching fish bared handed, typically catfish as it is a Southern tradition. It can also be used to describe a form of  musical improvision, typically in a desultory manner. included the definition at issue (and disdained) here:


[nood-l] Show IPA verb, -dled, -dling.
–verb (used without object)

2.Informal. play; toy: to noodle with numbers as a hobby. improvise, experiment, or think creatively: The writers noodled for a week and came up with a better idea for the ad campaign.
However, there is no etymology for this use.  The nuance, of course of this definition, is the addition of "creativity" to the type of thinking one does while noodling.  Maybe I am a food addict, but my creative thinking when I hear someone use the word is to dream of pasta or chinese food.  MMMM.

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