to fiddle about

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Senior Member
The man was still preoccupied and fiddled about on his keyboard.
Source: Dead Water by Ann Cleeves

What does fiddle about means?

a) [no obj.] —touch or fidget with something in a restless or nervous way • Lena fiddled with her cup.


b) tinker with something in an attempt to make minor adjustments or improvements • he fiddled with the blind, trying to prevent the sun from shining in her eyes.


c) (fiddle around) —pass time aimlessly, without doing or achieving anything of substance.

It could be any of them, right? What clue would you use to decide on the most fitting definition entry?

Thank you.
  • lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    The closest definition is c), but it’s used in a derogatory way. If the man was preoccupied, he was concentrating on what he was doing, not doing it aimlessly.


    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    I would imagine (a), as I assume that was is meant by "preoccupied" is distracted or worried.

    If we imagine that he is actually focused on fixing or changing something, perhaps it would be (b). And if he's bored, it might be closer to (c) — though this is not too far from (a) in presenting the picture of nervous motion as he is distracted or lost in thought.
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