Thursday, April 17, 2008


As a child, I thought everyone knew what a padiddle was. It wasn't until college, when I came into contact with many people from areas other than the town I grew up in, that I realized the word is not so common. The word paddidle is defined as a car with only one working headlight. To us, it was simply an observation ("There goes a padiddle") when we were outside playing in the evening and saw a one drive by. I have since learned that the word is also used for the name of a travel game and points are scored dependant upon the type of vehicle spotted. A quick internet search will bring up numerous sites about the word padiddle and its supposed first recorded use in an "Archie" comic in 1948.

Interestingly, my neighborhood dialectical group also had a word for a car with only one working taillight - a padaddle. This word seems to be even less known and there is still not a whole lot of information available on it.

Update: Here is the definition and etymology of padiddle from the Oxford English Dictionary

padiddle, int. and n.

Pronunciation: Brit. /pəˈdɪdl/ , U.S. /pəˈdɪd(ə)l/
Forms: 19– bediddle, 19– padiddle, 19– pediddle, 19– perdiddle, 19– perdiddo, 19– pididdle. Also with capital initial.
Etymology: Origin unknown.
Dict. Amer. Regional Eng. s.v. also records the forms padoodle , padungle , in the same sense. By some the game is extended to cover cars with only one working rear light, on sight of which the word pedunk is shouted.

U.S. colloq.
A. int.

An exclamation shouted in a game by the first of a group of people who spots a motor vehicle with only one working headlight, this person being entitled variously to kiss or hit the others.

1948 B. Montana Archie (comic strip) in Nevada State Jrnl. 23 May (Comics section) 7 Let's play ‘padiddle’.‥ When a car goes by with one headlight if I say padiddle you have to give me a kiss!
1959 in Dict. Amer. Regional Eng. (2002) IV. 79/1 If a fellow sees a car coming with only one light and says ‘padiddle’, he may kiss his girl. If she sees it first and says ‘padiddle’, she may slap the boy.
1991 Washington Post (Electronic ed.) 21 Apr. w8 Years ago in some parts of the country when you were out just driving around of an evening and you saw a car approaching with one of its headlights out, you were supposed to say ‘Padiddle’ and you got to kiss your date.

B. n.

The motor vehicle itself; (also) the game.

1948 [see sense A.].
2003 K. W. Duisberg Good Patient 290 It's just one of those one-eyed cars. What was it she used to call them when we were little, my mother?‥ Padiddle Pediddle. Are they good luck? Do you get a kiss or just a punch?
(Hide quotations)

padiddle, int. and n.
Third edition, March 2005; online version September 2011. ; accessed 31 October 2011.


Nettie said...

I googled Padiddle because I blogged about it today and I like to see if it comes up and anyway I came across this. I like your blog great idea.

Wordacious said...

Thank you Nettie. I like your post about Padiddle too.

Laura Payne said...

I don't know why I didn't give a reference for the Archie Comic etymology when I first posted this. At any rate, it was from the Oxford English Dictionary.

Claire C said...

You're the first person I've ever met who also grew up using the word "padaddle" for a car with a taillight out! My brothers and I would do a sort of car bingo -- padiddle, padaddle; a special thrill was spotting a padiddle-daddle, and once we saw a woody padiddle-daddle!!

(For etymological purposes -- this was in the 1960s or possibly the late 1950s. We moved from the Philadelphia area to Connecticut around then.)

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