Musings on Twaddle

Here in the US, if you hear the word twaddle being used in a homeschool setting, you can be guaranteed that person using the term applies CM methodology in their homeschool to some degree. It is a word inextricably linked to Charlotte Mason. 

I grew up with the word ‘twaddle’ as simply another word, as do many British and Australian folks (and no doubt citizens of other Commonwealth nations). It is a synonym for nonsense, but the way my mother used the word was layered with extra meaning,  in the way that synonyms very rarely mean exactly the same thing,  but rather provide shades of meaning.

When we gave a disgustingly poor excuse for our terrible behavior at school,  my mother would say,  “Don’t give me that twaddle!”

When a news story turned out to be simply a fluff piece for a local politician, well, that was a bunch of twaddle.

Twaddle is not just nonsense. It’s deliberate nonsense. It suggests an emptiness that distracts one’s audience away from depth and truth.

The mind concerns itself only with thoughts, imaginations, reasoned arguments; it declines to assimilate the facts unless in combination with its proper pabulum; it, being active, is wearied in the passive attitude of a listener, it is as much bored in the case of a child by the discursive twaddle of the talking teacher as in that of a grown-up by conversational twaddle; it has a natural preference for literary form; given a more or less literary presentation, the curiosity of the mind is enormous and embraces a vast variety of subjects.
– Volume 6 page 15

Twaddle is not just about books. Yes, many local libraries and bookstores are stacked to the gunnels with twaddle.  But twaddle can be found in every arena of life.  Most of what we see on TV is twaddle.  (I would argue it is twaddle by design.)  In the modern age much of our everyday conversation,  even with family and friends, is laced with twaddle: the inconsequential,  the banal, the inane. I remember in my university days wondering why nobody talked any more. Sure, their mouths moved a lot but nothing of consequence ever really came out.  Most of what we buy for our home is twaddle, designed to take up space, but with little meaning or personal attachment; they cost so little we simply toss them away and replace them with more twaddle.

Twaddle is a veneer. It’s all surface.  “Oh, my kids are reading.” Yes, but WHAT are they reading? Does it have depth and meaning, or is it just more emptiness on a page of letters that holds the attention for a short while and is then forgotten like so much dust?

Others’ worthy thoughts on Twaddle

The AO Advisory

Catherine Levison

A Read-Aloud-Revival Q and A discussing twaddle.

A perfect example of proper use of the word ‘twaddle’ in the British media

Another great example of the word ‘twaddle’ used properly by a British journalist


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