There are days it’s so brutally muggy, the air is like sludge. You bear a grudge against the humidity. And at the same time it’s broiling sunny and warm. When you step out it’s like having a blanket taken half-done out of the drier and tossed on you. If you make the mistake of exerting yourself at all, you may as well have trudged through a car wash. What I’m saying is that it’s not just muggy, it’s brudgy.
Or maybe you don’t really know what I’m talking about. If you’re from one of the dry parts of the world, brudginess (brudgery?) is something you’ve experienced on vacation, if at all. I grew up in Alberta and humidity was only perceptible within the half hour of a rain storm (and on rare, very scenic occasions, a tornado warning), or – more likely – when I was on vacation in Vancouver or Hawai‘i or some eastern part of North America.
The first time I really recall brudgy weather was the summer of 1976 in Washington DC, and the heat was more prominent than the humidity. In the 1990s I lived in Boston, where every August you can count on a few days in the triple digits (Fahrenheit) and almost the triple digits (humidity). That’s some shirt-soaking weather.
But this summer has been a particularly brudgy one in Toronto and many other parts of North America. It’s having an effect on my health. Oh, don’t worry, I have air conditioning, so I’m not in the kind of heat danger many people are. But it’s just too gross-hot out for me to go running as often as I normally would, or to run as far or as fast as I otherwise would. And I begrudge having to abridge my runs.
Why call hot-wet-blanket conditions brudgy? Well, heck, why not? You look in the dictionary and there are all sorts of words that seem to have appeared out of nowhere. If we assume that this word traces back to Old English, we can expect there to have been a form brucg at some point. But with an earliest citation of brudgy in Northern England a few centuries ago, all we can feel confident of would be a u that in that version sounded like the oo in book. We can’t even feel confident of how people in Northern England came to have a concept of this kind of weather.
Might as well conclude provisionally that it came about because it just sounds appropriate. There’s that embracing but brutal “br” and the heavy, sludgy “udge.” That conclusion is reliable – in fact, I know that’s how it happened, because I made it up. This is a new old word. But I’m sure to use it for a few more days this year.