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Definition: A lazy person

Pronunciation: slug-ah-bed

Origin: Slugabed is a very old word that brings together the words ‘slug’ and ‘abed’ – essentially meaning one who is as a slug in bed. Although we are familiar with the meaning of the word ‘slug’ from the animal kingdom, it is also a now-obsolete verb. In the 1400’s, to ‘slug’ meant to ‘act lazily’. Indeed, you could apply the adjective ‘sluggy’ to someone to describe them. It is thought that these words derived from the Swedish ‘slogga’ – which, apart from being a great name for a bed in Ikea, most likely came to the English language via Viking influence. The adverb ‘abed’ simply means ‘to stay in bed’. Both came together to form ‘Slugabed’ in the late 1500’s.

Why this word?

There are never enough words in the English language to describe someone perceived as lazy. Indeed, it is amusing to see that society is never happy to just have one such term and that every couple of generations, a new word joins this laziest of families. Consider, for example, the following terms that more or less describe the phenomenon of the lazy person – each created in the language and values of its day:  the ‘Couch Potato’ (1979), the ‘deadbeat’ (1863), ‘Ne’er-do-Well’ (1730)  and ‘Faineant’ (1610). Slugabed fits perfectly into this family, bringing together words of the time to express the sentiment.

How to use the word slugabed in a sentence?

I do not believe that the word slugabed need necessarily be used any more as it seems that ‘lazy’ words – ironically – are too lethargic to last more than a generation or two. But there is a lesson in terms like slugabed and ‘Couch Potato’. They show the ‘formula’ that must be followed when trying to come up with the next new term to describe a lazy person. Basically, both bring together one word to describe something immobile (slug or potato) and an area/location associated with lethargy (bed or couch). So what will come next? Futon Sloth? Actually – given the amount of cats that come up when one does a google search for ‘lazy’, I suspect that the next incarnation of ‘lazy’ may well be something along the lines of ‘pillow kitten’. Time shall tell.


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Written by Sean Carabini

Seán Carabini is a Dublin-based author. To date, Seán has written the humorous travel memoirs 'Sticking Out in Minnesota' and 'American Road', as well as 'American Road: The poems' - a book of travel poetry related to the memoir. Seán has also developed a podcast based on the book - subscribe to the American Road podcast today! Seán is a committee member of the Irish Writers' Union.

Chrissy Skelton is Seán Carabini's editor. A graduate of the University of Minnesota's Anthropology programme, Chrissy emerged armed with an arsenal of little-known words and cumbersome jargon - all of which will now be off-loaded onto 'unusedwords' readers!


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