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While a friend and I were searching around our campsite for firewood, I caught him using the word “doty” to refer to bad wood. I had just finished a book on Lewis and Clark in which they would use the word “doty” to refer to wood that was too rotten for firewood. So I was delighted to here it used in the same context, over 200 years later.
But I can’t find much under “doty”. Is there another spelling variation? And how did “doty” come to mean rotted wood?
The Oxford English Dictionary says:
Forms: Also doaty.
Etymology: related to dote v.1 4, dotard n. 2.
(See quots.)1883 Philad. Telegraph XL. No. 44. 8 A log may be doty in places, and even hollow, and yet have..good timber in it.
1889 D. E. Hurst Horsham Sussex Gloss., Doty, decayed with age and crumbling, said of wood.
1948 R. de Kerchove Internat. Maritime Dict. 209/2 Doaty, said of the condition of timber when stained with yellow and black spots.
I found a few other sources listing various alternate forms and spellings: dozy, dozey, dotey, doughty, etc.
I also discovered another useful term: pecky wood.
Pictures of pecky wood
T.K. Pratte, Dictionary of Prince Edward Island English, University of Toronto Press 1988
Dictionary of Prince Edward Island English
Adjective. Also dozey, dozy. Also spelled dotey, doughty. Common in Egmont and Cardigan, frequent elsewhere, but infrequent in Charlottetown; significantly rural, middle-aged and older, male.
Of wood, rotten, spongey, or decaying.
Bennett Wood Green, Word-book of Virginia folk-speech, Wm. Ellis Jones’ sons, Inc. 1912
Word-book of Virginia folk-speech
Doty, adj. Decayed; decaying; applied to timber or old trees. Doty wood, decayed wood. Doted.