• Paul Anthony Jones

Hurkle-durkle

(v.) to lay around in bed long after you should have got up [Scots]

To hurkle-durkle is to lounge around in bed long after you should have got up.

Like a lot of the words that crop up on HH, hurkle-durkle is an old dialect term—in this case, one from eighteenth century southern Scotland. One of its earliest records comes from John Jamieson’s Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language (1808):

To HURKLE-DURKLE, v. n. To lie in bed, or to lounge after it is time to get up or go to work. (Fife.)

Jamieson points to durck or durch—an old Germanic word for the hold of a ship—as the word’s probable origin, perhaps seeing some kind of etymological connection between someone lurking in bed and someone lurking in the dim, grimy bottom of a ship. He should really try changing his sheets more often.

But in reduplicative words like these, it’s often the case that the first part of the word is the original root, to which a second part has been added as a little more than a rhyming, humorous, playful tag. So okey-dokey comes from okay. Hoity-toity comes from hoit (an old verb meaning to act affectedly or, according to the OED, “to romp inelegantly”). Hurkle-durkle, then, likely comes from the old Scots verb hurkle, or hurkill, meaning ‘to draw the limbs together close to the body’. From there, it’s easy to see where the image of someone cosily curled up in bed, reluctant to get up, might develop.

As is often the case with regional and dialect words, of course, it’s impossible to say with any certainty which of these two theories (if indeed either) is correct without more evidence and research. But we’ll do that later. Frankly, it’s just far too tempting to stay in bed.

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