Last time I had dinner with my parents my mother was talking about the “scody” houses we stayed in during some of our family beach trips when I was young. The next day I was telling a friend I had known as soon as the conversation turned to the beach houses that they would be described as “scody,” because that’s the word Mom uses for grubby, grimy things. The friend had never heard the word before, and I realized I had never heard it used outside my family.
A check of the major dictionaries turned up absolutely nothing, but Merriam-Webster’s Open Dictionary (to which anyone can submit entries) had this definition for scody:
- Disgusting, filthy, squalid, dilapidated or (of people) sleazy. Generally, extremely unappealing.
- My friend lives in a really scody old house.
So Mom isn’t quite the only one using the word (despite the coincidence of the house example, I can assure you that my mother is not submitting words to the Open Dictionary).
When I started searching Google for other people using the word, I was surprised to find that most of the examples I came upon were from people in New Zealand, most of whom are also far younger than my mother.
From a discussion on socks to wear when raving, at an urban culture site in New Zealand:
woah ok. lets all rip into me for liking socks. and actually i do wear good shoes, ive tried my etnies and they were ok but i tend to go for my low cut chuks. i have also tried plasters on the “prone area” and every time i do that the “prone area” becomes somewhere new, i figure tho soon my feet will be so scody and calloused that theyll b unblistereable….oh the joys of feet. and i dont think thick socks woukld make u more prone to toe jams, athletes foot or any other fungal/bacterial infection as just socks would b more breathable than shoes and socks.
From a site cluing parents in on their kids’ lingo:
me and my homies(aka mates) like to use the word snazzy witch means cool.we also like to use the word scody witch means ehhhhhhhhh or gross .Unco means not cool.HIHO is a mix between hi and hello.when we talk about cute boys we call them hunks, tuds, muffins, babes.when we have a crush we call them our lover lover boys.—Sarah—Age: 11—From NEW ZEALAND
From a discussion at a New Zealand gaming site discussing whether it’s true that eight in 10 teenagers are bisexual:
a greater proportion of girls are clean and non-scody than guys, as this is the norm for our society. Makes it easier for girls to be attracted to girls, and guys not to guys
Now, my mother did live in several countries when she was young (England, Denmark, Panama) but never even visited New Zealand until a year ago, decades after she had added scody to her vocabulary. When I related all of this to her, she was as surprised as I to learn how uncommon the word is, and speculated that she and her siblings may have picked it up while they were living in England as children.
Other spellings also appeared in a few places: skody, scodie.
The word is reminiscent of grody, which appeared in the 1960s but is most strongly associated with the 1980s Valley Girl phrase “Grody to the max.” Grody was originally grotty, appearing in British slang as a shortened form of grotesque. From a discussion at the Scarleteen site (use the Google cache version if the original link doesn’t work):
what makes him “scody” anyway? what’s “scody”? i am too old to know what such things mean. it is like “grody”? that’s a word we used when i was in junior high.
Scrody also turns up, defined at the Urban Dictionary as “like grody, but sounds better.” Based on my unscientific sampling of Google results, scrody appears to be more common in the U.S. than scody is. Presumably scrody and scody are related, but I haven’t found any evidence for a link, or for the origins of scrody.
But none of this brings me much closer to explaining where scody came from, or why my mother is one of the few Americans who uses the word. So, readers (especially adults outside of New Zealand), help me out here: have you run into the word before? Has anyone seen an explanation of its origin?