Did you know

that there is a difference between dilly-dallying and lollygagging? They have somethings in common with each other as well as with frittering.  They all basically mean wasting time.

It amused me to read that a person who dilly-dallys is annoying because they waste time by fussing around and not getting things done and they aren’t aware of the delays they cause other people.

Did the phrase ‘fussing around’ jump out at you? Me too and it means to ‘fiddle with someone or something’ which is a whole ‘nother idiom.

Defining idioms with other idioms – what fun!

Lollygagging is interesting, this is new information to me, and I’ll just quote rather than try to paraphrase: “Lollygagging takes on a different perspective of time wasting due to its origins and connections to love relationships.  Lollygagging meant wasting time, lazing around with someone else, when there was work to do or duties to perform.  Dilly dallying would indicate a trite waste of time while lolly gagging, a more old fashioned expression, was synonymous with illicit relationships and an inappropriate waste of time.” (SOURCE)

Fritter away, whether time or money, is just wasting it on unimportant or unnecessary things. Can you see what a rabbit hole this could send me down?

And speaking of rabbit holes – what does that mean exactly? According to the Slang Dictionary “Used especially in the phrase going down the rabbit hole or falling down the rabbit hole, a rabbit hole is a metaphor for something that transports someone into a wonderfully (or troublingly) surreal state or situation. On the internet (emphasis added) a rabbit hole frequently refers to an extremely engrossing and time-consuming topic.” (SOURCE)

I never thought of ‘rabbit hole’ as transport into a surreal state or situation. We all know it is a reference to “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll, and that’s what happens to Alice when she falls down a rabbit hole.  But for the rest of us, it is the internet meaning we mean. When we go there. Down the rabbit hole.

WORDS! and phrases – their meaning, connotation, etymology – the rabbit hole to end all rabbit holes.

7 thoughts on “Did you know

  1. Words are wonderful. I’ve noticed, though, that the more of my mind that I lose, the less grasp I have of idioms. I’ll think of something and not know if it’s actually the correct idiom or if my head has butchered it, so I have to look it up, which can send me down that good old rabbit hole.

    My first nursing job was on a psych ward, and a common phrase that staff used in charting to describe patient behaviour on weekends when nothing much was going on was “puttering around the ward.” We had a couple of British nurses, so they might have said “pottering,” although I don’t recall. WikiDiff has this enlightening explanation of the difference between the two: “As nouns the difference between puttering and pottering is that puttering is the act of one who putters while pottering is the act of one who potters.”

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    1. Here’s an interesting explanation of potter vs putter – https://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-put4.htm. My search used the term “dilly-dally vs. lollygag” . I’ve never come across WikiDiff in all of my searches, which is saying a lot, since I fritter away a lot of my time going down rabbit holes! I’m always checking on phrases because so many are regional and what means one thing to you means something else to me…That’s why I wish I had a copy of DARE sigh

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  2. My husband and I were talking about Bull Durham [the movie] this morning and that, of course, got us talking about lollygagging. While we didn’t mention frittering I do like that word, too. As for dilly-dallying, it’s not part of my personal lexicon but it certainly rolls off the tongue. All three idioms are ones that I need to say and write more often. Great research

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    1. If you noticed I used the word ‘fritter’ in my response to your comment on “Busy, Busy, Busy”. That led me to think about dilly-dally and lollygag – all three words/phrases are a staple of my youth – my mother preferred dilly-dally, my father preferred lollygag and fritter is just, common, I guess. But thinking about it even more, dilly-dally and lollygag were used in slightly different situations, maybe they knew instinctively there was a difference, I didn’t until I looked it up. Maybe they are old timey idioms, I heard them a lot when I was a growing up, adults seemed to love them! The research was easy – dilly-dally vs lollygag – Bingo! Lots of answers.

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  3. I really was unaware that dilly dallying and lollygagging had different meanings. I thought they were interchangeable. Now I know that since I spend the majority of my time alone I am a dilly dallier rather than a lollygagger

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    1. I didn’t know either, tho nowadays the meaning of an illicit relationship would have been dropped and just inappropriate waste of time meant – like the cashier at your store who was putzing around on her phone instead of marking down the dairy LOL (Oh look another phrase for wasting time – ‘putzing around’ – it seems I know many, many words for wasting time, why is that?)


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