“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.”

11 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.

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