During the past six years that my gentleman friend and I have been dating, we have spent more hours on the phone with each other than anyone could possibly imagine. In our defense, thanks to cell phones and Bluetooth, we can multi-task while we talk – but at our age we don’t consider talking to each other a waste of time or something we need to justify. Many of those hours are late night conversations, often our most interesting and range from intensely serious to wildly absurd. I was reminded of the absurd the other day.
My friend’s roots run from Missouri to Georgia to Maine, but he’s been in Texas long enough to warrant forgiveness for that over which he had no control. In other words, he got here as fast as he could. Because of this “deficiency” of birth, one of our late-night conversations developed into a grammar lesson of sorts. Not only did I have to defend some aspects of our Texas language, I had to educate him about the difference between “piddling” and “dilly dallying.” (See, I wasn’t kidding about the absurd!)
Piddling may be construed by some as a waste of time but au contraire! Piddling is done with purpose – not so, dilly dallying. Piddling and its close cousin, puttering, are action verbs – though I concede that “action” may be a bit of a stretch because you won’t find piddlers and putterers in a big rush to do anything while in the act of piddling and puttering. But again, they have purpose.
Piddlers and putterers often engage in tinkering as well. It’s inevitable that when one starts piddling in the garage, the flower bed or sewing room, he/ she will end up tinkering with something. The mental image of piddling, puttering and tinkering is intense engagement in an activity that requires concentration. Often piddlers are so engrossed in their project they don’t hear phones, outside conversations or realize they’ve been piddling all day into the late evening. The opportunity of unfettered piddling is what retirement dreams are made of! At the end of the day … well, maybe the week or year, piddlers generally accomplish something.
Dilly dallying on the other hand, has no redeeming qualities. One dilly dallies over their plate to avoid eating the boiled okra or he/she dilly dallies over packing because they really don’t want to go to the in-law’s house. Dilly dallying is procrastination in its highest form. While sloth-like and disheveled might be rather strong adjectives describing a dilly dallier, the most negative aspect of dilly dallying is its characteristic indecision. This is an action verb where inaction is the ends and the means. Dilly dallying has a relative too – fiddle farting, and that alone should confirm that dilly dallying is an absolute waste of time.
Did I convince my friend of the vast difference between piddling and dilly dallying? That’s hard to say since he chooses to dilly dally in answering that question. He likes to divert the conversation to my use of blah-blah-blah … but then that’s another column!
Connie Clements is a freelance reporter and award-winning columnist, who returned to her passion for writing after retirement from the workforce and motherhood, although one is never fully retired from motherhood. She writes feature news article on a weekly basis and an opinion column as the mood strikes her.