A New York City caller wonders why we refer to clothing as duds. The term dates back to the 1300s, when the word dudde referred to a cloak or mantle of coarse cloth. Over time, it came to refer to shabby clothing, and eventually acquired a more neutral meaning of simply “clothes.” The earlier sense of “ragged” or “inferior” may also be reflected in the term dud, denoting something that fails to function. This is part of a complete episode.

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