The curious case of "dillweed"

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On The Awl, Samantha Sanders has a wonderful piece on "Dillweed (As An Insult)." (This is part of The Awl's "holiday series on flavors and spices," naturally enough.) She muses on how dillweed has been used as a pejorative since it was popularized by the show "Beavis and Butt-Head" back in the early '90s and considers how this mild-mannered herb got pressed into service as a minced oath. On Twitter, I responded with some more ruminations on the history of dillweed, as well as other insults from the same family, including dickweed, dinkweed, and dickwad (with input from slangologist Jonathon Green and others). I've compiled the Twitter thread as a Storify story, embedded below.


  1. Y said,

    November 21, 2017 @ 1:47 am

    I'd place dillweed together with dickweed, dingbat, dipstick, douche, dork, dope, ditz, dolt, as well as duh, durrr, and d'ohh.

  2. Jerry Friedman said,

    November 21, 2017 @ 9:55 am

    I heard "dillwad" (sp?) as an insult in my high school in the late '70s.

    I always thought of "dipstick", when it was an insult, as a euphemism for "dipshit". By the way, there are at least a few people who think "sheep dip" means manure.

    If we're listing "d" words, I'll mention "doofus" (altered from "goofus"? which is from Highlights for Children?); various words with "de-", "dis-", and "dys-"; and "death", "doom", and "destruction".

  3. Brian said,

    November 21, 2017 @ 3:29 pm

    I was definitely familiar with "dillweed" in public school in 1980. I remember my brother and his friends using "dill rod" as a home-grown variant. I also remember seeing a school book wherein some other student had written "dill weed" on a page (underneath a photograph), as two words.

    Unfortunately I have no physical evidence that could be produced at this time, so it must remain as hearsay.

  4. maidhc said,

    November 21, 2017 @ 3:31 pm

    There's another Australianism, probably unrelated: "dilly" or "dillybag" meaning something like a tote bag in the US. Wikipedia says it comes from the Jagera word "dili".

    When I was in high school, "the dip" was a nickname for someone with a limp, but I never heard that outside a very local context.

    Jerry Friedman: There seems to be a very old structure, preserved in some Indo-European languages, that words that describe something bad would start with du or dy, and words that describe something good would start with su or sy. It may be a bit of a stretch to apply that here.

  5. Tim Morris said,

    November 21, 2017 @ 5:51 pm

    "Dillnuts" was an insult among my college crowd in the mid-late 1970s. I always thought of it as sort of a portmanteau reached by trying to prefix "nuts" with "dildo," but its origins are hazy :)

  6. maidhc said,

    November 22, 2017 @ 6:28 am

    Example of what I said previously–in Irish:
    doghluaiste – immovable
    soghluaiste – movable

  7. Jerry Friedman said,

    November 22, 2017 @ 1:56 pm

    maidhc: Are the "dys-" and "dis-" words examples of that? (And am I right to pronounce your name a lot like "Mike"?)

  8. Nancy Friedman said,

    November 22, 2017 @ 5:24 pm

    "Dilly Dilly" is the catchphrase of Bud Light's current ad campaign; Anheuser Busch is hoping it becomes the next "Whassup?", but isn't revealing what, if anything, it means. Could it come from the old folk tune "Lavender's Blue"? Probably not.

  9. Robot Therapist said,

    November 22, 2017 @ 6:12 pm

    There is also "dingleweed" –

  10. maidhc said,

    November 22, 2017 @ 10:48 pm

    Jerry Friedman: I believe there is a similar structure in Greek (ancient Greek anyway), but I don't have enough reference materials to come up with a good example.

    (My mother is the only person who calls me that.)

  11. Rodger C said,

    November 23, 2017 @ 1:10 pm

    Eudaimon 'happy', dysdaimon 'unhappy', and a lot of others. The PIE forms (as I learned them long ago without them pesky pharyngeals) are *su- and *dus-. Last I heard, there was some vexation over how eu- is related to *su-

  12. Brett said,

    November 23, 2017 @ 9:21 pm

    That Seventies Show used "dillhole" as a replacement for one or more obscenities.

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