A doodle is a type of sketch, an unfocused drawing made while a person's attention is otherwise occupied. They are simple drawings which can have a meaning, a shape or just irregular forms.
Doodling is mainly made by young people around the world, notably students. This activity is normally made during long or boring classes as the students begin daydreaming or losing interest. They do it mainly on the notebook margins or in the back pages starting as random lines and sketches and then becoming more elaborated.
Doodling can also be made while talking by telephone for a long period of time if a pen and paper are available.
Popular kinds of doodles include cartoon versions of teachers or companions in a school, famous TV or comic characters, invented fictional beings, landscapes, textures, banners with legends, and animations made by drawing a scene sequence in various pages of a book or notebook.
Its ultimate derivation is likely from the Low German dudeldopp, meaning "fool" or "simpleton". (High) German variants of the etymon include Dudeltopf, Dudentopf, Dudenkopf, Dude and Dödel. American English dude may be a derivation of doodle.
The meaning "fool, simpleton" is intended in the song title "Yankee Doodle", originally sung by British colonial troops prior to the American Revolutionary War. This is also the origin of the early eighteenth century verb to doodle, meaning "to swindle or to make a fool of". The modern meaning emerged in the 1930s either from this meaning or from the verb "to dawdle", which since the seventeenth century has had the meaning of wasting time or being lazy.
In the movie "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town" Mr. Deeds mentions that "doodle" was a word made up to describe scribblings to help a person think.
In published compilations of their materials, numerous historical figures have left behind doodles. Erasmus drew comical faces in the margins of his manuscripts and John Keats drew flowers in his medical note-books during lectures. Ralph Waldo Emerson, as a student at Harvard, decorated his composition books with somber, classical doodles, such as ornamental scrolls. In one place, he sketched a man whose feet have been bitten off by a great fish swimming nearby and added the caption, “My feet are gone. I am a fish. Yes, I am a fish!” In many other situations he commented that they helped with compositions.Stanislaw Ulam the mathematician is another example: he discovered the Ulam spiral while doodling during an academic conference.