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A dud is an ammunition round or explosive that fails to fire or detonate, respectively, on time or on command. Poorly designed devices (for example, improvised explosive devices (IEDs)), and small devices, have higher chances of being duds.
Duds are still dangerous, and can explode if handled. They have to be deactivated and disposed of carefully. In wartorn areas, many curious children have been injured or killed from tampering with such devices.
The term descends from the Middle English dudde, meaning "ragged clothing", and had been in usage as a general pejorative for something worn-out or useless for several centuries prior to the widespread adoption of the fused explosive artillery shell.
By extension, "dud" has become a slang word for anything that does not work or is defective. There is also a candy called Milk Duds, so named because it was impossible to get them perfectly round.
Generally your duds are "your last possessions", what you are wearing and carrying, so nice duds is ironic and possibly an oxymoron. Other meanings of 'dud' are:
- Duds - 16th century term for "clothes".
- Dud - 17th century term for "worthless". Then 17th Century term for "old clothes" and "rags".
- Duddery - 17th-19th century term for a "clothier's booth", trading in old cloth and rags.
- To sweat your duds - 19th century term to "pawn one's clothes"
- Dudman - "Scarecrow!", possibly from Dutch Dood/dode man (dead man), or from the old clothes used to clothe a scarecrow.
- 'Dud' is also used to describe a person who failed to meet standards in relationships.
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