"Cladly dressed"

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From reader BKS:

Someone used "cladly dressed" in a comment to The Guardian, and it appears to be an up and coming 21st Century phrase.

A search of www.guardian.com didn't turn up any instances of "cladly".[Update — but thanks to Mark Meckes in the comments below, here it is:]

And as BKS noted, there are a few examples in recent books:

With nakedness we find quite often the opposite of what the revealer expects to accomplish: the girl cladly dressed receives attention she is seeking but at cost to how she is perceived
Some of the elders heard rumors that Nathaniel was watching television by himself and paying specific attention to programs that featured females who were cladly dressed.
Meanwhile it is thirty eight degrees outside and Pastor Angie is cladly dressed walking down Gordon Parks Avenue.
My son was making out with this cladly dressed girl — I didn't even know who she was!

We can find a larger number of examples in web forums, online reviews, etc. (though the count is not enormous):

[link] why do they have to fawn over these cladly dressed women
[link] I would post a link to it on YouTube but it contains swearing and *ahem* cladly dressed women so I didn't want to get in trouble.
[link] I like getting my coffee from here cause it tastes good and dont have to deal with cladly dressed hookers flirting for a tip!
[link] It ain't counted as a midlife purchase unless a tall cladly dressed blondie is sitting next to you.

The examples are scattered in geographical and social context, suggesting that this is the sort of mistake that pops up spontaneously from time to time. Presumably it's a garbled memory of "scantily clad", a phrase that involves two rare words  often encountered together. Thus of the 278 instances of scantily in COCA, 201 are in the phrase "scantily clad"; this might lead someone to create the adverb "cladly", meaning (so to speak) "scantily cladly".


  1. Rodger C said,

    August 10, 2014 @ 11:15 am

    But are they cladly dressed in cladding? Or in dressing?

  2. david m said,

    August 10, 2014 @ 11:30 am

    note that every example is about women, maybe something about "scantily" sounds dainty and feminine? I don't think I've heard many (any?) men described as being scantily clad.

  3. Coby Lubliner said,

    August 10, 2014 @ 11:34 am

    Isn't "clad" just an old form of "clothed"?

  4. Josh TreLeaven said,

    August 10, 2014 @ 11:51 am

    I would have read "cladly dressed" as bulkily dressed. She's clad, and clad, and clad some more.

    I feel like with increased participation of Muslims in western societies, perhaps we are in need of more vocabulary to describe extreme modest ways of dressing.

  5. DC said,

    August 10, 2014 @ 12:01 pm

    Perhaps the phrase is built from a shortened form of skyclad.

  6. Mark Meckes said,

    August 10, 2014 @ 1:06 pm

    This is probably the comment in question.

    [(myl) Since the Guardian's website seems to be slow to respond with the content of that link, at least for those us outside the UK, here's what I finally got:


  7. Evan Harper said,

    August 10, 2014 @ 1:09 pm

    I agree with Josh TreLeaven. The associations and just the sound of the word "cladly" would have me guessing that "cladly dressed" would apply to chador, not short shorts.

  8. leoboiko said,

    August 10, 2014 @ 1:54 pm

    @david: But "scantly clad man" or "men" get a lot of results in the web, often accompanied by pretty pictures.

  9. Jack said,

    August 10, 2014 @ 4:47 pm

    Perhaps people stared using the set phrase "scantily clad" as an adjective, with "scantily cladly" as an adverb, creating a phrase like "scantily cladly dressed". Perhaps because it would be a "double adverb" or because people who didn't understand "scantily" started assuming it was some kind of intensifier, the "scantily" became optional and "cladly" took the whole phrase's meaning.

  10. JR said,

    August 10, 2014 @ 5:03 pm

    @david: Some of the etymologies I just looked up suggest that the word does have something to do with women's panties. I can't quite figure it out though. But there is a word, "scanties," that means "very brief underpants, esp. for women."

  11. Jacob said,

    August 10, 2014 @ 5:56 pm

    Or perhaps people started misinterpreting the adjective "well-clad" as "thoroughly clad," thus misinterpreting "clad" as "well-dressed."

  12. J.W. Brewer said,

    August 10, 2014 @ 6:49 pm

    This struck me as so weird I started wondering if it was an OCR error, but of course "dadly dressed" likewise makes no sense even though some scanning software misconstruing d as cl seems not implausible.

  13. FM said,

    August 10, 2014 @ 7:11 pm

    What I thought this would mean as I started going through the examples was "snappily dressed." I wasn't sure why this would be until I realized that I was getting interference from Russian skladno (slightly archaic "harmoniously".)

  14. Eric P Smith said,

    August 10, 2014 @ 7:19 pm

    I don't mind women cladly dressed, as long as they are shodly shoed.

  15. Rubrick said,

    August 11, 2014 @ 1:23 am

    @J.W. Brewer:

    Dadly dressed women are deemed attractive by only a small percentage of observers, with very specific tastes.

  16. leoboiko said,

    August 11, 2014 @ 4:28 am

    Clearly "cladly dressed" means to be dressed appropriately for one's clade.

  17. richardelguru said,

    August 11, 2014 @ 6:24 am

    It certainly puts cladistics in a new light!

  18. Adrian said,

    August 11, 2014 @ 6:28 am

    I took me a while to twig that it's a telescoping of "scantily clad". I wouldn't class it as a mistake but as a neologism.

    The earliest examples online appear to be a court petition from March 2001 (in http://www.med.uscourts.gov/Opinions/Cohen/2003/DMC_03242003_1-02cv187_St_Yves_v_Merrill_AFFIRMED_04242003.pdf), and possibly this page that Google dates to February 2001: http://www.pioneertroubadours.com/kudSaga2.htm

  19. Cajungirl said,

    August 11, 2014 @ 7:12 am

    Could this 'dadly' simply be someone's typing mistake – or a dyslexic using a 'd' instead of a 'b' ? A simple mistake rather than a 'new' word ?

  20. micah said,

    August 11, 2014 @ 8:40 am

    This made me laugh out loud.

    Back in the '90s, my younger brother frequently used the phrase "very clad" to describe women who were not wearing much in the way of clothing. Try as I might, I couldn't convince him that they were actually LESS clad than most people.

    I'm sure he will be gratified to learn that his neologism has been so widely adopted.

  21. AndrewD said,

    August 11, 2014 @ 10:08 am

    When I read the article and comments I thought it was a typo for "badly dressed", would any one agree with me?

  22. Granite26 said,

    August 11, 2014 @ 10:41 am

    Never heard the phrase in Houston, although I don't tend to associate with people who'd complain about that sort of thing

  23. Keith said,

    August 11, 2014 @ 10:56 am

    It's the summer, half the Grauniad's journalists are away in Umbria or Tuscany, or at yoghurt-weaving workshops.

    Those that are working have no editors looking over their shoulders.

    Thus, they are playing games to see who can come up with the most ridiculous neologism and get it into print. The biggest prize, though, is to see one's neologism pass into mainstream usage, earning a Daly Award (the equivalent for Observer hacks is the Weakly Award).

  24. V said,

    August 11, 2014 @ 11:23 am

    Josh TreLeaven: "I feel like with increased participation of Muslims in western societies, perhaps we are in need of more vocabulary to describe extreme modest ways of dressing."

    First, that's some weird generalizing about Muslims and second, I've always found the word "modestly" when applied to clothing to mean with a lot of clothes on weird; if I didn't know English I would assume it meant the opposite.

  25. CThornett said,

    August 11, 2014 @ 11:26 am

    Keith, do you mean that bloomingekk is actually a Guardian journalist using a pseudonym, rather than someone a commenting on a Guardian article? If we're going to play stereotypes, isn't the cited comment a stereotypical male response to a female journalist, complete with stereotypical poor male language skills?

  26. Eric P Smith said,

    August 11, 2014 @ 11:51 am


    I wouldn't class it as a mistake but as a neologism.

    Distinguishing between a neologism and a mistake can be a vexed question. I was actually glad that Mark called it a mistake, showing that a descriptive linguist is not afraid to use the term.
    I agree with Mark that “cladly dressed” appears to come from “scantily clad”. I would ask, Did the user know that, in the phrase “scantily clad”, clad means dressed? If not, I think “cladly dressed” is a mistake.

  27. KevinM said,

    August 11, 2014 @ 2:09 pm

    Yes, "clad" means "dressed," but I took it as a jocular intensifier. Was she just dressed, or was she dressed-dressed?

  28. J. W. Brewer said,

    August 11, 2014 @ 2:54 pm

    Looking for "cladly" without "dressed" in google books shows that it is Out There, but typically (at least on the first page of hits) as an OCR misrecognition of "gladly" (probably in contexts where the original text started the word with a capital G). E.g, there's apparently an old hymn with the couplet "Lord, obediently we'll go / Cladly leaving all below." The phrase "gladly dressed" seems like it could be cromulent in some sort of context, but alas probably not as a euphemism/synonym for "minimally/barely/scantily dressed."

    Re trends in sartorial modesty, I was in a dimly lit subterranean jazz club in Manhattan last night, which ought for the sake of tradition to have been smoky (but Giuliani et seq made smoking in such facilities unlawful — at least I had a couple cocktails on top of my cover charge), and when the band finished and the lights came up it turned out that seated a bit behind me was a group of five female jazz fans who were almost certainly (by both the existence and the style of their head-coverings) Muslim. So live jazz = not haram. This contrasted nicely with a recent story about a Lower East Side hipster music venue which had agreed to have a special no-male-patrons allowed policy one particular night for the benefit of an indie-rock band composed of two Hasidic women who have religious scruples about playing live in front of a mixed-sex audience. The sartorial-lexicon point is that the band is called "Bulletproof Stockings," which sounds pretty goshdarn punk-rock but is apparently in-group slang for the Hasidic preference for modest hosiery — i.e. stockings that in thickness/opacity are the opposite of "sheer." I'm not sure of exactly what sort of stage outfits they wear, but I imagine they are probably more thoroughly clad ("cladder?") than the average post-riot-grrl act that might play the same venue on a different night.

  29. Michael Watts said,

    August 11, 2014 @ 3:02 pm

    I've always found the word "modestly" when applied to clothing to mean with a lot of clothes on weird; if I didn't know English I would assume it meant the opposite.

    The "modest" refers to the girl — the manner of her dress shows that she's modest; it isn't itself modest. It's like having a quiet cup of tea.

  30. Meesher said,

    August 11, 2014 @ 3:17 pm

    I was going to complain about the lack of an intermediate form between "scantily clad" and "cladly dressed," but my search turned up 7 ghits for "scladly dressed" with the relevant meaning. All of the results stem from two websites selling essays to students – I'd hate to be the unfortunate kid who tried to pass these gems off as my own.

  31. Jerry Friedman said,

    August 11, 2014 @ 4:50 pm

    V: I'd take "modest" literally as meaning "not showing off your looks or realizing that your looks aren't worth showing off, as the case may be".

  32. David Morris said,

    August 11, 2014 @ 5:21 pm

    Is it possible to be uncladly dressed? By the traditional definition of clad = clothed, no, but maybe by the new putative definition of cladly dressed > not minimally/barely/scantily dressed (whether that means standardly dressed, well dressed, or well covered).

  33. DaveK said,

    August 11, 2014 @ 9:38 pm

    I took "cladly"to be a mistake for "gladly" and thought the term meant to be wearing fancy or ostentatious clothing.

  34. ajay said,

    August 12, 2014 @ 5:07 am

    The "modest" refers to the girl — the manner of her dress shows that she's modest; it isn't itself modest. It's like having a quiet cup of tea.

    There is presumably a term for this sort of transferral of an adjective; it's something Wodehouse was very fond of ("He uncovered the eggs and bacon, and I took a moody forkful").

  35. Eric P Smith said,

    August 12, 2014 @ 9:48 am

    @ajay: transferred attributive, or transferred epithet, or hypallage.

  36. SykesFive said,

    August 12, 2014 @ 11:35 am

    I wonder if there is any connection between "cladly dressed" the eggcorn "scandally clad."

  37. protoplasm said,

    August 13, 2014 @ 7:14 am

    I might have guessed that it was related in some fashion to "cad". So, instead of "cadishly", "cadly", with that extended to mean (dressed) in a manner desired by cads. But that couldn't explain the extra "l".

  38. mollymooly said,

    August 13, 2014 @ 7:26 am

    One might be scantily clad in Chantilly Lace. "Chantilly Clad" is out there as an eggcorn (as well as an art installation in Long Beach). It turns the adverb into an adjective, which might facilitate further reanalyses.

  39. Ted said,

    August 14, 2014 @ 10:49 am

    I thought "cladly dressed" was generated in the Department of Redundancy Department.

    Despite the consensus that seems to be developing in these comments as to whence it cometh, I am not sure how "scantily clad" + "scantily dressed" = "cladly dressed."

  40. dw said,

    August 14, 2014 @ 10:29 pm

    Wow. Kids these days! Until now I would have assumed, almost without thinking, that "cladly dressed" was some kind of typo/OCR error for "badly dressed".

  41. Michael Tremberth said,

    August 17, 2014 @ 11:40 am

    Emerging from the water, uncladly dipped …..

  42. Alon Lischinsky said,

    August 24, 2014 @ 1:43 pm

    @Ted: the assumption would be that most people have only met clad in the construction scantily clad, and inadvertently transferred the semantic note -SUFFICIENT from the adverb to the adjective itself

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