Acouple of weeks ago, I asked readers if anyone knew why handfishing in Oklahoma is called noodling.
In other states, handfishing for monster catfish is called grabbling, graveling, groping, tickling, dogging, hogging or stumping. So why do Okies call it noodling?
Trader-historian James Adair reported American Indians catching catfish with their bare hands as early as 1775. Handfishing also was practiced in Europe. In Scotland, a similar fishing method for salmon is called "tickling."
But the origin of the term "noodling" is unknown. Readers, however, offered several theories. Among them:
Flathead catfish are as slippery as wet noodles.
To catch a flathead by hand, fishermen must wiggle their fingers like wet spaghetti to entice a giant catfish to bite.
After a monster flathead gets through shaking your arm, it dangles from your shoulder like a wet noodle.
In the late 17th century, opals were dug or "noodled" from Australian mines.
Celebrity Oklahoma noodler Jerry Rider, who has appeared on the David Letterman show and the Discovery Channel's "Dirty Jobs" to demonstrate his handfishing skills, said this was the earliest reference he could find to "noodling."
Perhaps the Scots brought it to Oklahoma. A New York Times reader said "guddling" is an old Scottish word that is phonologically close to noodling.
The word describes catching trout by hand, often by reaching under overhanging stones, as in the following passage from Robert Louis Stevenson's book "Kidnapped."
"We spent a great part of our days at the water-side, stripped to the waist and groping about or (as they say) guddling for these fish."
The Brooklyn man was responding to the newspaper's story about the annual Okie Noodling Tournament, which is scheduled Saturday in Pauls Valley.
Other readers offered more risque origins of the word that are better left unmentioned.
After pointless research, I decided my wife's theory is about as good as any. People who blindly explore underwater holes where beavers and snakes might lurk must be off their noodle.