Column: A new definition for ‘dote?’

Question: “Just found out there is a definition for ‘dote’ I was not aware of. To me it has always been ‘to show excessive love or fondness.’ Ex: She loves to dote on her children. Then while looking up the word, I find it is, also, ‘to be foolish, or feeble-minded’ especially as a result of senility. WOW! I could have called someone ‘a dotage’ or ‘dotard’, and they may not have felt so insulted. Haha. The things one finds in the dictionary … it never ends.” — (Clem Sare)

Answer: Clem, you can call anyone you want a “dotard” … as long as it isn’t me.

Since you bring it up, “dotage” is an interesting word. It’s not one you hear very often either, so I thought it would be fun to write about.

As you said earlier, to “dote” is either to exhibit mental decline similar to old age or to be lavish or excessive in one’s attention. It’s a dichotomy a Spartan would laugh at – if Spartans were prone to laughing.

“Dotage,” though, only has one meaning – maybe. Both Oxford and Merriam-Webster only seem to recognize “dotage” as meaning “the period of life in which a person is old and weak.” So you wouldn’t call someone “a dotage,” but rather say they are in “their dotage.”

Other, less reputable dictionaries, however, offer a second “nouning of the verb,” if you will. To wit: Defining “dotage” as “excessive or foolish affection.”

Now, I can’t say I’ve ever heard “dotage” to mean anything other than the definition Oxford and Merriam-Webster list. If anything, I would think it would be more common to use the gerund “doting” if one wanted to talk about the aforementioned excessive and foolish affection. But, then again, who am I to say? I’m just a Grammar Guy.