Of unknown origin, the American-English word padoodle, or padiddle, denotes an exclamation shouted in a game by the first of a group of people who spots a car with only one working headlight, this person being entitled variously to kiss or hit one of the others.
The earliest mention of this game that I have found is in Jack Tucker’s column Talk Around Town in The Democrat and Chronicle’s Sunday Magazine (Rochester, New York) of 11th August 1940:
Daddy Called It Postoffice But Now It Has Evolved Into ‘Padoodle’
“Padoodle” is a kissing game currently enjoying a great vogue among our 16-year-olds. The favorite way to play it is like this: Two or three boys and a girl take a drive at night in busy East Avenue. They all look for a car with only one headlight. First boy to spot one shouts “Padoodle!” and gets a free kiss . . . If, on the other hand, the little girl sees a car first and shouts “Padoodle!” she is entitled to slap the cheek of any boy in the crowd. One boy informs me, ruefully, that this game can be very dangerous indeed . . . “Why, the other night,” he said, “the girl with us must have thought she was Joe Louis. Every time she cried ‘Padoodle!’ she’d swing on me. By the time we finished the ride, one side of my face was all swollen.”
I trust this startling disclosure of the practices of our gay young things will not unduly disturb their parents, who doubtless suppose their offspring are out eating ice cream cones some place or reading the funnies in unison . . . Gosh, remember “Spin the bottle” and “Going to Jerusalem” and that venerable standby of them all, “Postoffice?” Deary me, it was some fun. Except that the girl who finally got around to asking for me in “Postoffice” was sure to be Sophie Glutz, from whom I’d run three blocks . . . And when it came my turn to retire to the other room and announce a package for one of the girls, I never could work up enough nerve to ask for the girl I really wanted, and instead wound up lamely by pecking at the cheek of the girl who lived next door and whom I’d known too long to regard as anything but a Pal.
The Pittsburgh Press (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) of 21st February 1941 reported that a song titled Padoodle, “about a boy, a girl and a “one-eyed automobile””, had been announced a nation-wide second place winner in Tommy Dorsey’s Fame and Fortune. It had been written the previous year by a Pittsburgh orphan boy, Robert Ruben, who, encouraged by this success, went on writing songs.
The earliest occurrence of the form padiddle that I have found is in the comic strip Archie, by Robert William ‘Bob’ Montana (1920-75), published in the Nevada State Journal of 23rd May 1948:
– Isn’t it a lovely evening? – I’ll play you a game!
– Let’s play “padiddle”! – What ever in the world is that?
– When a car goes by with one headlight… if I say “padiddle”… you have to give me a kiss! – All right, Archie!
– There’s one! “Padiddle”! – Well, I guess I have to pay my bet!
– “Padiddle!” – Another so soon?
– “Padiddle”! – Goodness! That’s the seventh! I had no idea so many people drove with one light!
– Hey, Archie!
I can’t drive around the block any more… A cop stopped me on account of that one headlight you turned off!
Now you’ve really got a “padiddle”!
Prof. Gordon R. Wood, of the University of Chattanooga, “interested in comments from readers on speech patterns they are familiar with”, asked the following question in The Nashville Tennessean (Nashville, Tennessee) of 25th January 1953:
They tell me that when a Tennessean on a date sees a one-eyed car and wants to be sure he gets a kiss, he says the “ritual word” padiddle. Farther south—I don’t know how much farther—the word is pedittle. What do you say—padiddle or pedittle?
The word came to be also applied to a car with only one working headlight. The Minneapolis Morning Tribune of 25th January 1962 published this letter from a certain Nancy A. Carter:
‘Padoodle’ Drivers Invite Accidents
Recently I have been watching padoodle cars. It has not been, however, in the high school fashion to have an excuse to kiss the gentleman who may or may not be sitting next to me.
Instead it has been to verify my astonishment over the number of Minneapolis drivers who do night-time driving with only one headlight working.
Since the first of the year I have counted on the average of four cars an evening driven in this negligent manner. All it takes is one session of jury duty to make a citizen more concerned about his or her driving.
District court is 18 to 20 months behind in trying traffic cases which are primarily the result of careless driving. It seems unnecessary to put oneself in a vulnerable position for an accident. How easy it would be to catch the dark fender of a padoodle car driving down a narrow residential street.
Excuse me while I go out and check my own headlights. Are both of your headlights working?
The Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California) of 5th May 1987 published a letter in which one Paul Bergman appears to have invented a word:
The “padoodle” monster seems to have arrived in unprecedented numbers. It is hard to drive more than a couple of blocks at night without finding a car with one headlight out. Maybe “padoodlism” is a disease that cars get by being parked too close together, or maybe the drivers do not care for their cars as well as in the past.
In Late awards for ’74 deeds, published in the Dixon Evening Telegraph (Dixon, Illinois) of 7th January 1975, Mike Cunniff gave the name of a car with only one working rear light:
Boy, You’ve Led a Sheltered Life award to anyone who did not have explained to you at an early age a car with a front headlight out is called a padiddle and one with a taillight missing is a padinkle.
Both padoodle and padiddle have been employed in other senses.
Oscar Odd ‘O. O.’ McIntyre (1884-1938) used padoodle on several occasions to mean blather, balderdash, in his column New York Day by Day published simultaneously in hundreds of American newspapers; for example, The Ogden Standard Examiner (Ogden, Utah) of 15th April 1931 had:
Pain-in-the-neck padoodle from a Park avenue cafe ad: “Ah, partridge, cocotte perigourdine! It can be nothing less than perfection . . . a daintiness wooed to utter tenderness by a chef’s blandishments . . . a piquante morsel created but for this delirious moment of fulfilment.” It would be fun to squat there in full dress and ask casually for a chunk of sowbelly smeared with turnip greens.
On 25th December of the same year, the Reading Times (Reading, Pennsylvania) published the following by ‘O. O.’ McIntyre:
Others talk padoodle to their pooches, too. I dropped in on a writer yesterday at his work shop. He was ipsy-wisping to a wire-haired fox: “Go on away and quit bothering me. Daddy has to work and buy dog biscuits.” Then he looked up, saw me in the doorway and tried to act as though he was humming a tune. The big bum is a moose hunter, too.
The Daily Tar Heel (Chapel Hill, North Carolina) of 5th December 1969 published a text in which a certain Robin Brewer used a padoodle in the sense of a damn:
I fancy that very few of you will give a lousy padoodle about what I said last Monday.
In the Tallahassee Democrat (Tallahassee, Florida) of 16th November 1978, an article about Frisbee mentioned the names of the “throws, catches and games”:
For example, there’s the air bounce, air brush, backwards thumber, tipper, chest roll, hook thumb, wrist flip, sidearm, padiddle and twirler.
Perhaps after poodle, padoodle has also been used in relation to dogs. The following is from The Statesman Journal (Salem, Oregon) of 26th January 1980:
LOST: Small poodle and Padoodle mix, grey head, dark body, 18yrs. old, vic. Haysville Dr., sizeable reward.
Florida Today (Cocoa, Florida) of 5th October 1987 published an article about adoptable dogs:
“We have padoodles of them,” exclaims Clara Gunde, director of the Central Brevard Humane Society shelter in Cocoa.
For those who don’t know what padoodles are, it’s about 200 dogs. All up for adoption at the Central Brevard shelter.
Finally, in A barking dog’s life can be ‘ruff’ sometimes, published in the Northwest Herald (Woodstock, Illinois) of 31st March 2012, Tom ‘T. R.’ Kerth associated an extended form of the word with nonsense:
People had real dogs, not those micro-yappers that are so popular today – the wee, wheezy windup toys that people pass off as dogs. You know what I mean: creatures with cute pedigrees that proclaim them to be Poopadoodles or some such nonsense, created by some mad breeder scientist who aspired to be Victor Frankenstein but ended up being Willy Wonka.