What is a cudgel?

Word count: 241 words

Reading time: About 1 minute

Increase your vocabulary and you’ll make your writing much more precise. That’s why I provide a word of the week. Today’s word: cudgel.

I have to confess: I’ve never been a Star Trek fan. (Nor a Lord of the Rings fan, either, I admit.) Fantasy leaves me disinterested rather than excited or engaged. Call it a character flaw, if you like.

That said, I’ll happily read well-written reviews of just about any book or movie. And this is what took me to Anthony Lane’s May 20/13 New Yorker critique of Star Trek Into Darkness — a movie that would otherwise be hard-pressed to generate even a yawn from me.

Here is the sentence that gave me my word-of-the-week:

Star Trek Into Darkness, directed by J.J. Abrams, is a great cudgel of a movie, set to stun. 

Of course I already knew that a cudgel is a short, thick stick used as a weapon. (See photo, above.) But I wanted to explore the etymology of the word. To my (untrained) eye, it had a strong hint of the Anglo-Saxon about it. I was curious: where did cudgel come from?

Apparently the word can be traced to the Middle English kuggel, which in turn comes from the Old English cycgel. Some lexicographers think it is perhaps akin to Middle High German kugele, meaningball.” Others suggest it might come from the root  *geu- meaning “to curve, bend.” Either way, it is indeed a very old word.
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