The other day I was walking by a table of students and heard, “You are such a dilly dilly.” When I thought about the connotation of the comment I realized the student was using it negatively in a way we might poke fun at our peers. I asked the students if they knew what dilly dilly meant or where it came from and no hand went up. Someone said they heard it on the TV and some heard it from parents or siblings, but no one knew what it meant.
I went home that evening and did some research into the words because like most of you reading this I have seen them on adult beverage commercials. Turns out it is a real word. In class we discussed the power of our words and knowing what things mean as well as the idea of how advertisements can effect our actions.
If you look up the word dilly on Word Central, Merriam Webster’s student dictionary, no entries come up. Students began to question if this was even a word they should be using. We went to the mecca of dictionaries, searching the word in the Oxford Dictionary. There were two definitions, which we discussed as class. Students were surprised at the first definition in which the word refers to an excellent example of something. Discovering the etymology of the word was a great place to start!
Students were using definition 2 from the dictionary that meant odd or foolish. Digging even further we discovered the reason the company used this phrase, confirming our reading with multiple sources. They believe it does not mean anything, rather a silly phrase. But to our students it has meaning based on how they have heard it being used in their environments.
This phrase has taken the NFL Sunday loving people by storm! However it is important to remember our students are watching and listening and might not be understanding what they are seeing or hearing. I encouraged our students to think about what is happening in advertisements and to look up the words they are using, especially if it is something the overheard and see people laughing about. They should know what they are saying.
When I shared with them which commercial the words came from jaws dropped. Many had no idea of the source. However, we delved into the real source and learned a lot a long the way.