Magazine article The Spectator

Mind Your Language: Dodgy

Magazine article The Spectator

Mind Your Language: Dodgy

Article excerpt

'I hate Jammie Dodgers,' said my husband staring disdainfully at a biscuit kindly tucked into his coffee saucer at an after-church gathering. I'm glad only I heard. But the fact is that we British generally admire dodgers. Dickens came up with a fine sobriquet when he gave John Dawkins the nickname the Artful Dodger. As in real life, he was often referred to simply as the Artful. Artful of course meant 'cunning' or 'deceitful' -- high praise. Earlier in the story, Mr Bumble had called Oliver Twist 'artful and designing', admittedly not in praise. And in The Pickwick Papers , the novel before Oliver Twist , Sam Weller calls a trick played on them by Job Trotter an 'artful dodge'.

Dodging and dodgers had been around since the 16th century, and in 1698 the translators of the Abbé de Vallemont even called Tacitus 'a great Dodger' who 'always speaks more out of Policy than according to Truth'. Today, policy is something for which there is a great clamour in the period before an election.

As for dodgers, the one who dominated the late 20th century was Roger the Dodger, in the Beano . …

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