Thanks to Luci Ortiz of Boatwright Library for this word. I was often accused of lollygagging by my mother, whenever I was to cut the grass or take out the trash, yet somehow found a way to delay the chore as long as possible. To teenaged me, there was no doubt what our strange-sounding term meant.
An OED search reveals the word to be American slang, originating in the 19th Century. The usage frequency given is only 3 of 8: a real pity for such a colorful word. The earliest usage, from 1862 in Harpers, gives it as “lallygag,” and after that the word settled down to its present spelling, though the original spelling with the letter A continues into the 20th Century. I fear it won’t live past the 21st.
No one knows its origin.
Best usage, from 1868: “The lascivious lolly-gagging lumps of licentiousness who disgrace the common decencies of life by their love-sick fawnings at our public dances.”
So, slackers, stop dawdling, dilly-dallying, loafing, kicking the can down the road, and above all, do not lollygag. We have work to do.
Please nominate a word or metaphor useful in academic writing by e-mailing me (jessid -at- richmond -dot- edu) or leaving a comment below.
Creative-Commons image courtesy of Quinn Dombrowski at Flickr.