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Word of the week: Canoodle
What would Lauren Boebert do?
Quite a lot, it turns out.
The 36-year-old two-term Republican congresswoman from Colorado was ejected, along with her date, from a Denver theater on September 10 after audience members complained about her “disruptive” behavior, which included vaping, singing, and taking photographs (expressly forbidden) during a performance of Beetlejuice, and refusing to stop when asked politely.
As closed-circuit TV footage later revealed, that’s not all she was up to.
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My favorite description, though—if only because it’s a delightful word we just don’t see often enough—was canoodling.
Colorado Sun:, September 17: “[A]ccording to new security video shown by TMZ, there was pretty clear evidence of what some would call public indecency — including Boebert and her date doing some very public canoodling and more during an otherwise PG musical. You could see from the video kids sitting in the row behind Boebert..”
Newsweek, September 18: “The man with whom the politician was seen canoodling in a Denver theater has seen his Aspen bar suffer bad online reviews in the aftermath.”
Enough about Boebert. What’s the story with canoodle?
Its etymology is obscure but is almost certainly unrelated to canoe or noodle. The OED says it’s “slang, originally U.S.”: “To indulge in caresses and fondling endearments,” and notes an earlier transitive sense, “to persuade by endearments or deception.” Merriam-Webster speculates that it may come from an English dialect noun meaning “donkey” or “fool.” The earliest citation in the Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang is from a British source, originally published in 1859: “A sly kiss, and a squeeze, and a pressure of the foot or so, and a variety of harmless endearing blandishments, known to our American cousins (who are great adepts at sweet-hearting) as canoodling.”
The Online Etymology Dictionary teases out some earlier threads from across the pond:
by 1830, “to cheat, deceive," in an English collection of Irish songs, and also used, punningly, in the lines of an Englishman character in a "grand dramatic melodrama" set in India: "There, thanks to my canoe—we've canoodled those Bramins nicely, and effected a clear retreat to my retreat here." ["The Cataract of the Ganges, or The Rajah's Daughter" by W.T. Moncrieff].
The “cheat/deceive” sense of canoodle circulated widely throughout the American South in the mid-19th century. It showed up in Southern newspapers—sometimes spelled cahoodling—with a sense of political manipulation or back-room deals:
Later in the century, canoodle was taken up in the U.K. Here’s the Online Etymology Dictionary again:
In 1869 W.S. Gilbert published "The King of Canoodle-Dum," one of his popular, buffoonish "Bab Ballads." It concerns an English sailor shipwrecked in the West Indies who is taken up by said native "king" and given a life of tropical luxury. Thanks probably to the song, Canoodle-dum seems to have had some currency in England in the 1870s, referring vaguely to peoples in Africa or the Caribbean.
In the 21st century, Canoodle is the name of an online dating service, a brand of socks from manufacturer Vans, and—styled as CAnoodle—a brand of gluten-free pasta (found in the trademark record, but nowhere else yet).
Back to Lauren Boebert: What has the gentlelady from Colorado learned from her own adventures in canoodling? In an interview with TMZ she said that in the future she’d “check party affiliations” before accepting a date. Yep, that’s what Lauren Boebert would do.
P.S. Lauren Boebert won her 2022 election by just 546 votes. Her opponent in that race, Adam Frisch, is attempting again to unseat her in 2024. If you’d like to see one less hypocritical canoodler in Congress, you can donate to Frisch’s campaign here.