“Wodge”

Faithful correspondent Nanette Tobin alerted me to a line which appeared in a New York Times Book Review column by romance reviewer Olivia Waite on Sunday, April 10. The book under discussion is a novel in which characters are “contestants on a high-concept reality show, where for a wodge of cash they have to convince their families that they’re getting married in a matter of weeks.”

Nanette wasn’t familiar with “wodge” but thought it sounded British; I had the same reaction. We were both right. The OED identifies it as originally a Midlands (the first citation is from 1847) but now broadly British colloquial term meaning “A bulky mass; a chunk or lump; a wad of paper, banknotes, etc. Hence also: a huge amount, a lot.” All the citations are British with the interesting exception of the American poet Ezra Pound, who wrote in a 1913 letter “I don’t want a great wadge of prose, but about double what we have at present.” (“Wadge” was originally a common alternate spelling.) The dictionary does not mention that Wodge Wodge Boodley Oodle Poo was considered as a title for the television show that eventually became Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

Looking up “wodge” in the New York Times archives, I find that, until now, every use of it had been by a British person or, in one case, an American who had spent more than half his life in England. (Charles Marowitz.) That led me to wonder whether Waite is British. I found her on Twitter (@O_Waite) and asked her. Her reply:

“Not British, just watched too much Blackadder! And ‘wodge’ as a sound has the heft and awkwardness of a fat roll of bills, so it stuck with me.”

13 thoughts on ““Wodge”

  1. In the 1979 British film ‘The Knowledge’, a drama about memorising the streets of London in order to become a cab driver, actor Mick Ford comes into the cafe and asks for “a cup of tea and a wodge…” before interrupting himself. Knowing ‘caff’ fare of the time, I think he was probably about to say “…of bread pudding” or “…of cake”.
    37min 35sec https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSAAB1ZmudY

    1. “Wad” is Cockney slang for a sandwich. He definitely says “wodge” in the film, but I’d say it’s meant as a variant of “wad”.

  2. I think wedge is a far more common term for a bundle of notes. There again, I would expect to hear both on TV shows or movies rather than in real life – maybe because of today’s cashless society?

  3. I don’t know if it’ll stick, but there’s a huge new building in the City of London I’ve heard nicknamed The Wodge. Goes along with The Cheese Grater, The Can of Ham, The Gherkin and the Walkie Talkie.

  4. I think of this word as exclusively British. I can hardly think of a British person I know who doesn’t use it all the time, yet I’ve never heard an American say it.

  5. In the Irish film ‘Calm with horses’ currently available on NetFlix (at least in the U.K), a character says ‘Cut us a few wodges of brack while you’re at it’, so the word may almost never be said, heard or even understood in America but it does exist in Ireland. I added the quote to the Wiktionary page for ‘wodge’ in fact. Has any American ever used the Irish word ‘brack’ or the Welsh phrase ‘bara brith’ to refer to fruitcake? Worth investigating as a possible NOOB but I suspect a rare one, as these two terms aren’t even very widely used or understood in England.

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