Flummox: Seussian Antecedents in Dickens?

Flummox: verb. To bewilder. First appeared in Pickwick Papers (1836-7). (Although the OED cites Dickens as the earliest use, lexicographers have found earlier uses in obscure works in 1835.)

The title is (perhaps) explained by the fact that when I hear ‘flummox’ I think of the Lorax – it just seems like a work that should be a noun, but it’s not.  It’s related to yesterday’s ‘bewildered’, of course, but it implies a greater volition – one can be flummoxed, but one can also set out to flummox someone else – a penchant to perplex.

Dickens is credited with its earliest use, although (as above) he seems merely to have rescued a pre-existing word from an undeserved obscurity.   According to the OED, it comes from a Herefordshire cant word (of onomatopoeic origin) meaning to throw something together hurriedly.  And the word ‘flummox’ does seem to express itself with needful haste – although I still wish it were a Flummox.


About hickson1

Art historian, professor, Italian Renaissance and Baroque specialist, Italophile
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