Mardy (rhymes with 'hardy') adj., n.; colloquial, dialect
'Mardy' is a word that, although extremely descriptive and very useful, is not widely known outside the Midlands region of the United Kingdom. It should be.
Because it is not widely used, 'mardy' is difficult to describe to non-users, its meaning being quite elusive. Context helps, though:
- One can be a mardy cow
- One can be in a mardy
- And no one would want you to have a mardy on them
Any clearer? Well, 'stroppy' would be similar, as would 'to have a strop', but it's a bit too aggressive and sulky. Mardy has much more of a whine to it. 'Tantrum' isn't really applicable, since mardies are more likely to be ignored/shoved into the corner than to cause a scene.
Whingeing, sulky, snivelling... all have their merits, but none quite capture the soggy mix of petulance and patheticness that mean someone's got a mardy on them.
Origins and History
The word is similar to the name of the South Wales town Maerdy (near Merthyr Tydfil). During the General Strike1, miners from this area were sent to Staffordshire and thereabouts to take the place of belligerent locals. Neither these imported miners nor those they replaced were all too thrilled. Locals would mutter darkly when they saw them - 'They're Maerdy.' Since 'mardy' is slightly easier to say, the pronunciation shifted and evolved from:
- The state of hostility directed towards the newcomers
- Their own fairly miserable mood
- And the apparent stubbornness of just about everyone involved...
...to the term we know and love.
Alternatively, 'mardy' may be derived from the word 'marred' as applied to spoilt, nasty kiddies. However it is not easy to date the term or to know whether it was in use before the early 20th Century.
Its use at time of writing extends north-easterly to Derbyshire and Lincolnshire, but much beyond Stratford southerly-wise, it is little-known. So spread the word!
If you do not have access to this word, you are much the poorer. Other regions have similarly great words, certainly (eg, the Yorkshire word 'maungy' which may be related), but you're impoverished if you don't have the opportunity to go in a mardy. However, there is always a remedy to this:
- First, find something trivial to get upset about
- Make a screwed-up sulky face
- Get a bit damp (it does not matter how)
- Fold your arms aggressively
- Kick at things feebly
- Mutter darkly, shouting the occasional word so that people are aware of your displeasure
And before you know it, someone will come along and say 'You mardy little bugger.'