Reevaluating Grog's Cudgel

In the beginning, there was Grog. Grog looked around him, and seeing other Grog-like men, decided he needed to hit something, preferably one of the other people that resembled him. Looking around again, Grog saw sticks and thought in his Grog-language, "weapon."

Since there have been men and sticks, there has been a need to kill the former—and because it was there—with the latter. In fact, when Cain opted to off his brother because of Abel's more pleasing, bloody sacrifice (Gen. 4.8), he may very well have used a hefty stick, commonly referred to (once upon a time) as a "cudgel" (Simpson "cudgel")—unless, of course, it was a hefty carrot. The various denotations of the word "cudgel" have changed little—where they have not disappeared—but the connotations of the word have drifted towards a more figurative use due to the availability of newer, less stick-like weapons.

The Oxford English Dictionary, OED, cites several variations in the spelling of the present-day "cudgel" and the centuries used. Before AD 1100, the word was spelled with many "Cs" and "Ks," differing among themselves only in the first vowel: "cycgel," "kycgel," and "kicgel." After Old English's introduction to French in the late 11th century, the first vowel changed to a "U" and added another "G": "kuggel." The Early Modern Era adopted many new spellings of the word, including the one we presently use. In the 16th century, not only could a writer use the spelling "cudgel," but he or she could also write "cogell," "coogell," and "quodgell." Writers in both the 16th and 17th centuries occasionally took advantage of the opportunity to use "cogil" (Simpson "cudgel").

There are two main reasons for the shifts in English spelling. One, with each period, English was introduced to new languages, shifting the language and its spelling. Germanic formed Old English-as French did Middle English-and Latin and Greek influence (Renaissance languages) added to the Frenchy English during the Early Modern Era (Millward 16). Two, is the severe lack of standardized spelling until the printing press took hold in the late 15th century (Millward 224).

As sticks have been lying around since creation, an obvious connection to make would be that the noun is the first part of speech to adopt the word "cudgel." The OED cites three denotations for "cudgel" the noun. The first is "a short, thick stick used as a weapon, a club" (Simpson). Picture the stereotypical Grog: "Flinstones" attire, protruding jaw, dragging behind him a potential wife by her hair, and in the other hand, a large, crude, baseball bat-looking stick. That stick is a cudgel.

The earliest use of this denotation (in writing, not in physical use) is around AD 897 in King Alfred's West-Saxon Version of Gregory's Pastoral Care. In the form of "kycglum," a spelling not mentioned by the OED, "cudgel" is used to describe a shaft, as in the held part of a spear (King Alfred 297), which is also a bit off from the OED entry.

By 1225, "cudgel" has already begun to develop an abstract side. Used by the Camden Society in its Ancren Riwle:A Treatise on the Rules and Duties of Monastic Life in the form of "kuggel," the "cudgel" is a "holy rood-staff," or a cross, that one can use to drive out a "devil-dog," or demon (293). The Devil is also mentioned in connection with a cudgel in The Merry Wives of Windsor. In lines 81-2 of Act 4, scene 2, Mrs. Page utters a delightful curse: "Heaven guide him to thy husband's cudgel, and the devil guide his cudgel afterwards!" (Shakespeare 283). Notice the contemporary spelling, which is already in place when Shakespeare wrote this in 1598.

In the early 18th century, cudgels must have been a common household item, for the narrator in Gulliver's Travels mentions "sticks about the bigness of common cudgels" (Swift 129). A century later, cudgels in sacks become a highly desirable item, as found in the Brothers Grimm's "Tischchendeckdich, Goldesel und Knüppel aus dem Sack." A son, ousted by his father due to a misunderstanding, receives a gift from the turner under which he has apprenticed: a cudgel in a sack. This cudgel, however, is no ordinary stick. If anyone makes himself a nuisance, the owner of the cudgel in the sack only needs to shout, "Out of the sack, cudgel," and the obedient stick will leap from the sack and soundly thrash the offender Although the definition is the same the "cudgel in the sack," depending on the translation, can also be the "club in the sack" (Grimm 134). Obviously, "club" and "cudgel" are interchangeable synonyms.

Around the same time of the Grimm fairy tales, John Bargrave and William Thackeray used this word in a more realistic sense. In Pope Alexander the Seventh and the College of Cardinals, "cudgel" takes an early form—a "coggel of wood" (Bargrave 121)—while it matches present-day spelling in Catherine. A character named Wood explains to a woman the fortune in marrying into the upper class. "'And faith,' said he 'a count and a chariot-and six is better than an old skinflint with a cudgel'" (Thackeray 107).

Surprisingly, even into the 20th century, cudgel is still used to describe "a short, thick stick used as a weapon" (Simpson "cudgel"). In 1906, Edward Robertson wrote a reply to "Horace, Epistles, I. vii. 29" in The Classic Review. He asserts that foxes, whatever men may say, do eat corn. In fact, he claims to have seen these crafty animals "killed by a blow of the farmer's cudgel" for being in the corn field (216). That must have been one athletic farmer to be capable of catching up with a fox on the run and bludgeoning it with a fat stick, and even more impressive was that Robertson was there to witness it. Places north of the equator, however, were not the only ones with wooden weapons. In 1941, during the excavation of an Egyptian tomb, I. E. S. Edwards, an archaeologist, describes the Egyptian officials painted on the walls of the tomb as holding cudgels (1).

In the modernly popular role playing game Dungeons and Dragons, St. Cuthbert, one of the "characters" (for lack of a better word), is nicknamed "St. Cuthbert of the Cudgel" due to the massive mace he carries as a weapon (Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 Edition Index – Deities). To use "cudgel" in its original since, it would seem one now has to play "make-believe."

Figurative use of this denotation of "cudgel" increases after the middle 1900s, especially in poetry. Charles Johnson, a student of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, wrote a poem titled "A Summer's Villanelle in Short-Quartet Time," the fourth stanza of which includes a red ink pen acting as a cudgel to thrash bad papers (309).

The cruel, calumnious crimson cudg-

El with which "Ds" and "Fs" I cull-

I know I must be quick to judge. (lines 10-12)

In the third stanza of "Homer Did Not Know About the Vacuum Cleaner," the cudgel is also a symbol, suggesting the old manner of wooing a woman (Jamosky 42).

A triumphant savage with his club,

After the hunt suddenly peaceful became;

He threw away his cudgel,

And picked up a flute

On the way to his dearest of all. (lines 9-13)

The second denotation for the noun is "short for a contest with cudgels" as in "cudgel-play," the "playing or yielding of cudgels" (Simpson "cudgel, cudgel-play"). Imagine two Grogs in a prehistoric fencing match, each holding their cudgels in front of them, building potential energy until one of them utters the Grog-equivalent of "en garde." That is cudgel play.

Perhaps the ultimate "contest with cudgels" occurred during the Cudgel War in the late 1500s. Duke Carl, wishing to usurp the throne of King Sigismund of Finland, invoked the power of the mob by rousing the peasants to insurgency. The King, of course, wielded armor-clad knights, which must have intimidated the peasants, who had no such protection. The only weapon available to them that would even dent the metal armor of their enemies was a spiked club, and thus the war was named (Oinonen).

This denotation is also used in texts. In Speeches in Parliament, William Windham sees nothing wrong in the truth that "a set of poor men, for vigorous recreation, prefer a game of cudgels" (335). If we follow the example set in The Croker Papers (Croker 294), the men who played in that game are called "cudgel players."

Moving toward a more abstract use of this denotation, Thomas Jefferson Hogg, a friend of Percy Shelley, initiated the "Cudgel of Christianity," a sort of wielding of cudgels against the common religion that Shelley later adapted into The Necessity of Atheism.

The third denotation for the noun has two sub-denotations. The first is "to take up the cudgels," meaning to participate in a heated contest or debate (Simpson "cudgel"). S. Venkatesan, author of Children with Developmental Disabilities: A Training Guide for Parents, Teachers and Caregivers, complains of organizations claiming to support people with disabilities while secretly profiting from their "efforts." The US, Venkatesan writes, is a country "where unregistered organizations claiming to take up the cudgels for the cause of the disabled thrive in plenty" (229).

William Thackeray uses a similar expression in Humorists of the Eighteenth Century. He writes of Tobias Smollet as one who "wielded for years the cudgels of controversy" (189-190), which is accurate for such an abstract use. Anything controversial is likely to result in the wielding of "cudgels."

The second figurative denotation is archaic: "to cross cudgels" (Simpson "cudgel"), which means—as J. B. Williams, author of The History of English Journalism, put it—"to give up the struggle" (84). Another use of this archaic phrase can be found in The Library of English Literature, which portrays Thomas Decker as one who "cross[ed cudgels in satire" (Morley 269).

Just as Jill came tumbling down the hill after Jack, other parts of speech followed the noun. Most likely, the verb was the closest to tumble after it. The OED mentions three uses of "cudgel" the verb. The first is transitive, meaning "to beat or thrash with a cudgel" (Simpson). Picture stealthy Grog stalking some small mammal with his cudgel and, finding it unawares, beats it into a bloody pulp. That is "cudgel" as a transitive verb, with the small mammal as the object.

In The First Part of King Henry IV, Falstaff imagines himself at a Grog-like moment. In scene 3 of Act 3, he declares how expensive his ring is. Mistress Quickly, however, says it is but copper, asserting that Prince Hal would support her. Falstaff replies, "I would cudgel him like a dog if he would say so" (Shakespeare 812), to which the prince does not take too kindly.

Jonathan Swift, enjoying the moments when he can invert the places of man and beast, writes of Thomas, a man who "was cudgel'd one day by his wife" (line 1). If he had written this line of the poem in an active voice, "cudgel'd" would serve as a transitive verb. This would not help the fate of Thomas, however, who after seeking refuge from his wife with his friends, he disregards their advice and returns home, only to be "cudgel'd again by his wife" (line 10). As it is, Swift's use of "cudgel" is the second type mentioned by the OED: intransitive (Simpson).

Imagine a Groggette so beautiful—with a long unkempt, black hair, a beak-like nose, and a prominent jaw—that Grog would be willing to be cudgeled just to drag her off by her hair: a woman to be cudgeled for. This is the intransitive use portrayed in Catherine: a Story; only in this instance, the object to be had was inanimate. It was "a hat to be cudgelled for" (Thackeray 113).

The third use of the verb is figurative and is utilized as early as 1598. "Cudgel thy brains no more about it," the First Clown says in 5.1.56 of Hamlet, meaning in his Shakespearean tongue, "No worries" (Shakespeare 1140). David and Leigh Eddings revive this wonderful phrase in The Redemption of Althalus. A character named Chief Albron notices something is amiss and tells Althalus that he has been "cudgeling [himself over the head" trying to discover what it is (320).

The adjective is another part of speech to tumble after the noun. The OED lists three denotations for "cudgeled." The first is "beaten by a cudgel" (Simpson). Remember the small mammal Grog stalked and thrashed? One can now say the mammal is cudgeled Grog-kill.

By 1599, Shakespeare already uses this adjectival denotation in a figurative light. Pistol says in line 84 of Act 5 scene 1 of King Henry V, "Honor is cudgeled" (Shakespeare 913). If only Pistol knew how often honor suffers that adjective in Shakespeare's plays. He continues with his part, saying "and patches will I get unto these cudgeled scars" (line 87), which illustrates the second denotation: "produced by cudgeling" (Simpson "cudgeled").

The third denotation is archaic and next to impossible to find an example of. According to the OED, "cudgeled" can mean "laid on thickly and heavily" and was used for humorous purposes (Simpson). Picture Grog standing in front of a high class clothing store and looking at a red dress that can reflect the light of the sun because of the amount of glitter that covers its exterior. Somehow, a connection in Grog's brain would assimilate the information about the cudgel in his hand and apply it to the dress: That dress is cudgeled with glitter. Those of us with no fashion sense would react in the same way today, only we would say, "That dress is smothered with glitter," mostly because we do not carry around cudgels anymore.

In addition to the noun, verb, and adjective, "cudgel" promoted the use of a cudgel-wielding subject, or "cudgeller." The OED defines "cudgeller" as "one who cudgels" (Simpson). In the scenario of the hunting Grog, he would be the cudgeller. This word tends to keep to its realistic sense.

In The Story of the Stick in All Ages and Lands, Antony Réal describes the speed at which one can cudgel. In his day (the late 1800s), cudgellers could thrash 70 to 80 times in 30 seconds (180). Having nothing to compare it to today makes it difficult to assess the asserted cudgellers' skills.

Hermann Von Holst, author of The Constitutional and Political History of the United States, makes a great point using this noun and the adjective. He emphasizes that, should one wield a cudgel, he should go to great lengths "to make sure that from being the cudgeler he should not become the cudgeled" (320). This advice should be given to the "nightwalking cudgeller" of "An Apology for Smectymnuus" (Milton 67).

On the flip side of the subject is the object. The OED defines "cudgellee" as "one who is cudgeled" (Simpson). Returning again to Grog the Hunter, the small mammal we described as "cudgeled Grog-kill" is the cudgellee. Like "cudgeler," this word does not seem to enter into the realm of the abstract.

A great example of both words—in addition to the original—can be found in District School Journal of the State of New York. This 1848 writer complains of schools administering physical reprimands, stating "I have small sympathy with the cudgel, and whether as cudgelor or cudgelee, I always begged most sincerely to be excused" (121).

Two more recent uses of the word "cudgel" made for a challenging attempt to classify them. In the end, I gave up, assigning them their own little group: "Cudgels I am not quite certain what to do with."

If one were to follow this the Internet, one would find a website by The Chicago Urban Devils Golf Enthusiasts' League, or CUDGEL. This acronymic use of the word is ironic—despite the fact that golf clubs do not fit the definition of a "cudgel"—because of CUDGELs motto: "The Chicago Urban Devils Golf Enthusiasts' League is a group of misguided Chicago youths interested in hitting balls with clubs."

Literature yields the other odd use of "cudgel," which does not accurately fit any of the above definitions. "Cudgel verse" (the English equivalent of "Knüttelvers") is a type of doggerel, or poetry with irregular rhyme, that was common during the Renaissance and has since been used for humorous purposes (Encyclopedia Britanica).

The bottom line is that nobody truly cudgels anymore. "Cudgel" the noun has been reduced to a figurative weapon or cause. Using a cudgel requires one to "cudgel thy brain" (Shakespeare 1140) instead of cudgeling thy prey, and once one is cudgeled by a cudgel, one is merely figuratively cudgeled (like honor). Nobody wields a cudgel anymore so no one can be called "cudgeller," and if there is no cudgeller, then there is no cudgellee. How has this happened?

Metallurgy began to emerge about BC 4000 (Bentley and Ziegler 39), eventually resulting in metal weapons, which were far more effective than heavy sticks. Due to the necessary high cost of metal weapons, however, cudgels must have held popularity with the peasants, as King Sigismund of Finland discovered (Oinonen). By the time of the Industrial Revolution (late 1800s), swords were not the only alternatives for everyday weapons: Guns were being mass produced (Bentley and Ziegler 824-5). Both a cudgel and sword require hand-to-hand combat to maim one's opponent. A Gun, however, needs only for its wielder to pull the trigger, and the chances of hitting the target from a few feet away is infinitely larger that hitting the same target with either a cudgel or a sword. Thus, cudgels lost their appeal.

Antony Réal spoke not only for his own time, but also for ours when he said: "Unfortunately for men who still dream of the feudal stick, the people of today no longer allow themselves to be cudgeled" (180). They allow themselves to be shot instead.

A triumphant savage with his club,

After the hunt suddenly peaceful became;

He threw away his cudgel,

And picked up a flute

On the way to his dearest of all (Jamosky 42).

Unfortunately for her, Grog's flute plays bullets instead of music. The cycle of killing continues.


Bargrave, John. Pope Alexander the Seventh and the College of Cardinals.

Westminister: J. B. Nichols and Sons, 1867. 121. Books. 27 Oct. 2007 books. alexander the seventh#PPR2,M1 .

Bentley, Jerry, H., and Herbert F. Ziegler. Traditions and Encounters A Global Perspective on the Past. 3rd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2006. 39, 824-5.

Butler, Samuel. The Poetical Works of Samuel Butler Vol. I. London: William Pickering, 1835. 14. Books. 15 Aug. 2007. 10 Oct. 2007 books. works samuel butler#PPP7,M1 .

Camden Society. Ancren Riwle: A Treatise on the Rules and Duties of Monastic Life. 1225. Trans. James Morton, B. D. London: J. B. Nichols and Sons, 1853. 292-3. Books. 27 Oct. 2007 books. riwle#PPR2,M1 .

Croker, John Wilson. The Croker Papers: The Correspondence and Diaries of the Late Right Honourable John Wilson Croker, LL. D., F. R. S. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1884. 294. Books. 27 Oct. 2007 books. papers#PPP14,M1 .

CUDGEL. 10 Nov. 2007 School Journal of the State of New York IX viii (1848): 121. Books. 4 May 2007. 10 Nov 2007 books. school journal cudgel#PPA121,M1 .

"Doggerel." Encyclopædia Britannica. 10 Nov. 2007 & Dragons 3.5 Edition Index – Deities. "St. Cuthbert." 10 Nov. 2007 David and Leigh. The Redemption of Althalus. New York: Ballantine Publishing Group, 2000. 320.

Edwards, I. E.S. "A Fragment of Relief from the Memphite Tomb of Haremhab." Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 26 (Feb 1941): 1. JSTOR. UTC Library, TN. 10 Nov. 2007 John and Ian Hedworth. The Making of the Poets: Byron and Shelley in Their Time. Carrol and Graf, 2003. 141. Books. 10 Nov. 2007 books. poets shelley byron&sigRX5E4LsdmBGOqu6O-ogXexHYsT0 .

God. "Genesis." The Living Bible: Paraphrased. Ed. God. Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 1971. 4:8. 5.

Grimm, Jakob and Wilhelm. "The Magic Table, the Gold Donkey, and the Club in the Sack." 1857. The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm. Trans. Jack Zipes. Bantam Books, 1987. 134-42.

Grimm, Jakob and Wilhelm. 1857. "The Wishing-Table, the Gold-Ass, and the Cudgel in the Sack." 12 Nov. 2007 Edward. "Homer Did Not Know About the Vacuum Cleaner." Rocky Mountain Review of Language and Literature 47 ½ (1993): 42. JSTOR. UTC Library, TN. 10 Nov. 2007 Charles W. "A Summer's Villanelle in Short-Quartet Time." College Composition and Communication 26 3 (Oct. 1975): 309. JSTOR. UTC Library, TN. 10 Nov. 2007 Alfred. King Alfred's West-Saxon Version of Gregory's Pastoral Care. 897. Trans. Henry Sweet Esq. London: N. Trubner and Co. 1871. 297. Books. 13 Jul. 2007. 27 Oct. 2007 books. Alfred27s West Saxon Version of Gregory27s Pastoral Care .

Millward, C. M. A Biography of the English Language. Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1996. 16, 224.

Milton, John. "An Apology for Smectymnuus." Prose Works of John Milton. Ed. James Augustine St. John. London: Bell & Daldy, 1872. 67. Books. 21 Sept. 2007. 10 Nov. 2007 books. milton cudgeller#PPP9,M1 .

Morley, Henry, ed. The Library of English Literature. London: Cassell, Petter, Galpin, and Co, 1883. 269. Books. Apr. 2006. 27 Oct. 2007 books. Mikko. "Cudgel War." 10 Nov. 2007 . .

Réal, Antony. The Story of the Stick in All Ages and Lands: A Philosophical History and Lovely Chronicle of the Stick as the Friend and the Foe of Man. Trans. Fernand Michel. New York: J. B. Bouton, 1892. 180. Books. 28 Mar. 2006. 10 Nov 2007 books. stick .

Robertson, Edward Stanley. "Horace, Epistles, I. vii. 29." The Classical Review. Under Notes. 20 4 (May 1906): 216. JSTOR. UTC Library, TN. 10 Nov. 2007 William. The First Part of King Henry IV. The Complete Works of Shakespeare. 5th ed. Ed. David Bevington. Pearson Education Corporation, 2004. 812.

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet: Prince of Denmark. The Complete Works of Shakespeare. 5th ed. Ed. David Bevington. Pearson Education Corporation, 2004. 1140.

Shakespeare, William. King Henry V. The Complete Works of Shakespeare. 5th ed. Ed. David Bevington. Pearson Education Corporation, 2004. 913.

Shakespeare, William. The Merry Wives of Windsor. The Complete Works of Shakespeare. 5th ed. Ed. David Bevington. Pearson Education Corporation, 2004. 283.

Simpson, J. A, ed. "Cudgel." The Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 9. Oxford: Clerendon Press, 1989.

Simpson, J. A, ed. "Cudgelled." The Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 9. Oxford: Clerendon Press, 1989.

Simpson, J. A, ed. "Cudgellee." The Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 9. Oxford: Clerendon Press, 1989.

Simpson, J. A, ed. "Cudgeller." The Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 9. Oxford: Clerendon Press, 1989.

Swift, Jonathan. "Abroad and at Home." Some Humor in Poetry. 10 Nov. 2007 Jonathon. Gulliver's Travels. 1726. Ed. Miriam Kosh Starkman. Gulliver's Travels and Other Writings by Jonathon Swift. Bantam Books, 1962. 129.

Thackeray, William Makepeace. Catherine: a Story. 1840. Ed. Sheldon F. Goldfarb. University of Michigan Press, 1999. 107, 113. Books. 10 Nov. 2007 books. thackeray&sig-D1C5CuW6EraihCG6IICcdk6tVM .

Thackeray, William Makepeace. English Humorists of the Eighteenth Century. 1851. Ed. Stark Young, MA. Boston: Ginn and Co., 1911. 189-190. Books. 19 Mar. 2007. 10 Nov. 2007 books. humorists#PPR2,M1 .

Venkatesan, S. Children with Developmental Disabilities: A Training Guide for Parents, Teachers and Caregivers. Sage Publications, Inc, 2004. 229. Books. 10 Nov. 2007 books. developmental disabilities&sigfkHSl7nIqtcAWWHe48E40pmQvA .

Von Holst, Herman. The Constitutional and Political History of the United States Vol 6. Chicago: Callaghan & Co, 1892. 320. Books. 10 Nov. 2007 books. political history#PPP9,M1 .

Williams, J. B. A History of English Journalism: To the Foundation of the Gazette. London: Longman's Green and Co, 1908. 84. Books. 14 Aug. 2007. 27 Oct. 2007 books. english journalism .

Windham, William. Speeches in Parliament of the Right Honorable William Windham. London: Strahan and Preston. 1812. 335. Books. 14 Jun. 2007. 27 Oct. 2007 books. parliament#PPP8,M1 .