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Utterly Flummoxed

I’ve long had a fondness for the word flummox, which, per OED, means “to bring to confusion; cause to fail; to confound, bewilder, nonplus.” At least once per book, a character of mine will be flummoxed, though this could be slightly anachronistic usage in a Regency.

One of the earliest cites for this term comes from Dickens’ Pickwick Papers, which dates from 1837: “He’ll be what the Italians call reg’larly flummoxed.” The interesting thing is, flummox appears to have sprung up in English dialectical usage out of whole cloth, an onomatopoeic term for rough, untidy treatment. I’ve always liked the sound of the word, but thought there must be some Latinate ancestor–flumare, flumaxis?–or a Germanic one–aufgeflummen–but turns out this is good old yeoman slang.

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One comment on “Utterly Flummoxed

  1. 1
    HJ says:

    I was wondering why flummox (which is a great word) made me think of desserts, when I remembered flummery!