1

I've been reading Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and I came across several uses of the word "dockle", usually in the context of light teasing. While I can find some small evidence online of its usage elsewhere, I can't find any actual explanation of its etymology or meaning. The book is set in a lower-class borough of Brooklyn in the early 1900's, if that helps.

  • 1
    Can you supply the quote? – k1eran Mar 16 '17 at 16:14
  • 1
    There seems to be no evidence that this candidate word has ever been considered part of the English lexicon (which, if true, would make the question off-topic). – Edwin Ashworth Mar 16 '17 at 20:41
1

From "A Tree Grows In Brooklyn " by Betty Smith:

When none came, she taunted: "Why don't you bust out crying, you dockle?

The following etymological dictionary says it means "doll" which is probably used in the book as a mocking term:

Dockle:

  • Frisian dok, G. docke ; a little bundle as of thread, a wisp of straw, also a doll ; Swabian dockle, a doll ; dokheln, to play with a doll.

A dictionary of English etymology, H. Wedgwood - 1859 - ‎History

  • I'm slightly confused, your quote says 'Fris' and 'Swab' which I take to be Frisian and Swabian(?). Your own text says probably of scottish Origin, where does that assertion come from? – Spagirl Mar 16 '17 at 17:11
  • Dok is also the source of the normal Scandiwegian words for dolls (Danish/Norwegian dukke, Swedish docka); and the ending -el/-le is of course one of the regular, common diminutive suffixes in West Germanic, including English. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 16 '17 at 20:25
  • @JanusBahsJacquet - yes, I think the term was actually never an English one, but a Dutch/German one used by immigrants who settled in the USAat that time. – user66974 Mar 16 '17 at 20:27

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.