Squishy vs. squidgy

I got to wondering recently about the semantic differences between squishy and squidgy.

For me, squishy is soft and yielding, squishable like a sponge; squidgy refers to something a bit firmer and more malleable, like marla.* Their internal consonant clusters, voiceless -sh- vs. voiced -dg-, reflect this distinction — as with slush vs. sludge.

Curious about how others contrast them, and why, I asked offhand on Twitter, and was gratified by the range and detail of responses. I hadn’t thought much about the words’ emotional connotations: these and other qualities (e.g., relative wetness) recurred in the replies.

The discussion is now up on Storify for convenient reading and reference: ‘Squishy’ vs. ‘squidgy’.

Additional thoughts here or on Twitter would be welcome.

Edit: A recent tweet from @OxfordWords led me to their definition of squeegee, which says its origin is “from archaic squeege ‘to press’, strengthened form of squeeze.” Which seems relevant.

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* /’mɔːrlə/ An Irish word for plasticine or modelling clay.

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17 Responses to Squishy vs. squidgy

  1. Remember Squidgygate?

  2. Stan says:

    I do indeed, Barrie. It came up a couple of times in the Storify discussion linked above.

    EDIT: It’s interesting that Squidge and Squidgy can serve as nicknames, but Squish and Squishy appear less likely to, if they do at all.

  3. Marc Leavitt says:

    Stan:
    I tend to agree with your description of the two words, but here’s my take: Squidgy, because of the -dg sound has a darkness a heaviness and a slimy quality, as if you must wash your hands after touching a squidgy object. Squishy is a lighter word; it almost slides through your fingers.

  4. johnwcowan says:

    I don’t have squidgy in my active or passive vocabulary.

  5. Stan says:

    Thanks, Marc. Squidgy seems to have broader, and darker, uncurrents.

    John: It’s a lot less common, going by Google, COHA, etc.

  6. DianeNicholls says:

    yes, ‘squidgy’ has an almost flat line for US English in ngram viewer. Interesting.

  7. I’m most familiar with ‘squidgy’ as used to refer to fishing lures or ‘jigs’ designed for catching squid (lures with a molded soft, plastic body). I had thus always assumed that ‘squidgy’ was a combination of ‘squid’ + ‘jig’ + a happy little ending.

    After reading your post, however, I suspect I may be a been victim of marketing!

  8. Charles Sullivan says:

    Squidgy doesn’t really register as a word for North Americans.

  9. Stan says:

    Diane, Charles: Squidgy appears only a handful of times in COHA‘s 400m words, and never before 20 years ago: twice for mud, once for toadstools, and a few times as a nickname.

    Bree: ‘squid’ + ‘jig’ + a happy little ending. I love this (though it’s not a happy ending for the squid!). Thank you for telling me about the additional meaning of squidgy; I had no idea.

  10. wisewebwoman says:

    My brothers’ nickname for my sister (which would dement her) was Squidge – we thought it an invented word. She had a habit of pulling up turtle necks over her nose when she was little. They insisted she looked like a squidge.
    Squish puts me in mind of a bug. Death of.
    As Monty Python would say that word is ‘woody’.
    XO
    WWW

  11. Stan says:

    WWW: Squidge seems to be a fairly popular nickname, and the same end-sound crops up in Midge, Madge, Rog, Podge and maybe others. Squish‘s connotations just aren’t as pleasant or friendly.
    I love that Python sketch.

  12. alexmccrae1546 says:

    Just to slide a little greasy palm into the mix, we must not forget “Squiggy”, to be precise, Andrew “Squiggy” Squigmann of “Laverne & Shirley” TV sitcom fame (1976-1983), played by comic actor David Lander.

    The lovable, yet quirky grease-ball, and bosom buddy of the extroverted Lenny clearly came by his moniker honestly. “Squiggy” seemed such a cool personality fit, w/ its intrinsic slippery, greasy ‘feel’.

    I must confess, the word “squidgy” was a new one for me.

    “Squishy”, on the other hand, is quite familiar. As a lapsed sculptor having worked frequently w/ clay, “squishy” most aptly describes the sensation of kneading fingers working a moist hunk of clay. Or that feeling when slogging thru a muddy field in gumboots, w/ that predictable sucking sound* punctuating each plodding step.

    *No, not that OTHER resounding “sucking sound” conjured up by former presidential hopeful, Ross Perot.

    ALEX

    P.S.: Hmm…. and then there’s “squiggly”, just to complicate the mix. (As in a squiggly line.) But I digress.

  13. alexmccrae1546 says:

    Stan,

    Doh!

    I missed your footnote regarding your explanation of “maria” as an Irish term for modeling clay, or plasticine.

    So perhaps “squidgy”, and not “squishy” (as I indicated in my earlier post) would be the more apt sensation experienced when handling clay?

    Maybe it all comes down to the quantity of water in the clay body as to whether it’s merely “squidgy” (less moisture) versus “squishy” (having almost a slurry-like consistency).

    I’m sure the likes of famed sculptors Auguste Rodin, or Edgar Degas* didn’t lose any sleep over the “squishy” vs “squidgy” clay factor.

    *Actually Degas worked mostly in wax, which eventually translated into his masterful cast bronze dancers, bathers, and horses. I guess the hot wax could get a bit “squidgy’, at times.

  14. johnwcowan says:

    There’s a Newfoundland song “Squid-Jiggin’ Ground” (1944), to the tune of “Nell Flaherty’s Drake”. As is well known, Newfoundland English is heavily influenced by Hiberno-English; it has been called the only traditional dialect of English in the New World.

  15. Stan says:

    Alex: I had never heard of “Squiggy” Squigmann or Laverne & Shirley. Thanks for your thoughts on squidgy and squishy. I agree that whether one or the other is more suitable to describe clay or mud has a lot to do with how wet the material is. But I imagine there’s a good deal of variation in how and where they overlap for different people! (Note that the Irish word is marla, not maria.)

    John: You are a mine of curiosities and information. Coincidentally, a recent post at Gravitas & Giggles mentions the similarity between the Newfoundland and Irish accents; while regular commenter wisewebwoman, a Cork woman in Newfoundland, quite often touches on language-related matters.

  16. drei says:

    Squishy is Spongebob; squidgy is Squidward.

  17. Stan says:

    I like that comparison, drei.

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