“A Canadian,” Pierre Berton once said, “is someone who knows how to make love in a canoe without tipping it.” I wonder to what extent that’s still true, if it ever entirely was. But you expect a Canadian to know about canoes and to have some idea of how to use their noodle – I mean their brain – when canoeing and canoodling. And, come to think of it, I would assume a Canadian would know what canoodle means. (So would an American – the word seems to have come from the US.)
Admittedly, the word is not the most transparent word ever, morphologically. It sounds sort of like a version of cannoli made by Chef Boy-ar-dee. It has the can that makes one think of Canadian and of being able; Canadian reactions may include CANDU, which is a Canadian-made reactor. It could give an image of canoes and pool noodles and oodles of similar things. And, yes, it has that oodle end that is rather gleefully silly (I really have never quite been able to get my head around the fact that, in Goethe’s Faust, Mephistopheles appears at first in the form of a poodle). Also possibly aimlessly wandering and exploratory, in an artistic sense: in drawing, we have doodling; in music, noodling.
And in romance, canoodling. It’s not the full deal; it’s something that, if you see two people doing it on the subway, might make you think “Get a room” but won’t make you call security, escape to another car as soon as possible, or (if you’re a teenage twerp) pull out your phone and take a video. It’s just kissing and cuddling, caressing, fondling, petting – light petting, not heavy petting. Rather the romantic equivalent of doodling or noodling.
It’s not usually used to mean “cozen” or “blag” or “caboodle”, though it can be used in that sense – there is some connection between smooching and schmoozing, between gentle caresses and subtle blandishments. And it’s not kibbitzing or confabulating or, in general, chatting. It’s important to know this.
Which CTV News anchor Andrew Johnson didn’t. Following a segment in which an interviewee referred to canoodling, he suggested to weathercaster Astrid Braunschmidt that she might want to canoodle with him before giving the weather report. His producer set him right (by way of headset) before Astrid had finished laughing (but not before she informed him that they were not going to be canoodling). You can see the clip at o.canada.com/2012/08/23/ctv-anchor-just-wants-to-canoodle-a-bit/.
Ah, language. Especially a language as overloaded as English – we’re never satisfied with having just one way to say anything. We like to play around, idly noodle and doodle… it’s a sort of way of canoodling with the lexis. But watch out you don’t get bamboozled or otherwise look like a fool. You k’now… use your k’noodle.
Thanks to my friend Brian Bukowski for sending me the link to Andrew Johnson’s embarrassing moment.