“Oh fudge!” Supposedly that’s what the cook said in an 1886 Baltimore kitchen when a batch of caramel went wrong. Although he used the term as a mild expletive, the name fudge stuck to describe the crystallized caramel confection produced that day.
Fudge is an interesting word. It’s often used in various ways and situations.
Fudge can mean nonsense or humbug, as in “fudge on that.” Fudge means to fake or falsify, as in “I fudged the data,” a use perhaps derived from Captain “Lying” Fudge, an 1800s sea captain known for telling tall tales. Fudge sometimes is used to denote indecision, as in “he fudged on that issue,” or in a variation used by engineers, the term denotes lack of certainty, as in “use a fudge factor.”
To the engineer, that means calculating a value to 7 (or more) decimal places, but then adding another 50 percent to the calculated value to account for the fact that the numbers that went into the calculation weren’t very accurate. Engineers are known “to calculate anything...