Feb 28, 2011


Summary: Tired of the dark days of February? Don't be so mardy, mate! Let's fight the blues with a little education today about British slang ...

Last week, while lunching with my friend Bob, he said over our salads and sandwiches, "I have a WOW for your blog."

I leaned in with interest, of course—interest that piqued when he explained it was an international word, shared with him by his British love interest. It seems they had their first row (rhymes with WOW). And as part of this little spat (okay, maybe it wasn't so noisy, after all), she said to him exasperatedly, "Don't be so mardy!" He gleaned what he thought she meant from the rest of their conversation—particularly when she told him he was too sensitive. No surprise, this hurt his feelings.

Now I may be partial, but I find Bob's sensitivity refreshing. He's someone I can have deep conversations with. And I value his input and creativity. Our brains work very similarly.

We were both dying to know exactly what mardy means. So, I trundled on over to the Dictionary of Slang (or "slanguistics," as they call it) at the UK website Peevish. And under the Ms, this is what I discovered:

Mardy (pronounced just like we Americans say, "Mardi Gras") - (n.) someone who is easily upset, scared or moans incessantly; someone who whines a lot. (adj.) Behaving like a mardy person.

As for the etymology, it took a little more detective work on my end. But many English speakers across the pond have shared their own thoughts and findings in chat groups, helping me to determine that it likely comes from the Old Englishe word mar, meaning to spoil or waste. A child who throws a tantrum was said to be marred, or marred-y, in the days of yore. Some words stick around, even as the rest of the language they come from changes; it seems marred-y is one of those words, only partly evolving itself into a type of slang that's most commonly used as a North England colloquialism.

Well, Bob ... now you know. (Let's not listen!)

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