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Words: fuddy duddy, n.

THERE IS a distressing tendency among English writers of a certain age - Alan Hollinghurst, Joan Smith, Geoff Dyer - to frequent raves.

Call me a fuddy duddy, but a string quartet or jazz trio is a more beguiling invitation, although Ry Cooder's Buena Vista Social Club has been known to make me shake a leg. To hunt down words is surely more thrilling than a tab of Ecstasy - even when, as in this case, there is no definitive answer to the origins of a phrase.

It surely has an echo of "fussy", if not the Cumberland dialect duddy fuddiel, a ragged fellow. It gained currency this century on both sides of the Atlantic - although in Maine the word is fuddydud. Meanwhile, slippers and open fire beckon.