Whangdoodle is this week’s Wacky Word Wednesday word on T for Translation. This week we’ll have another go at enriching your vocabulary in an entertaining fashion. Today’s word takes us into the realms of literature and fantasy as well as the more frivolous side of language…
This week’s word hauled over from TermWiki.com:
a fanciful creature of undefined nature.
This week’s word whangdoodle is an example of a “nonsense word” which took on meaning and ultimately got lexicalized through its acceptance as part of the English language. Admittedly, whangdoodle is probably not a word that currently occurs in your daily lexicon. After reading this post, however, you will certainly be able to casually slip a whangdoodle into your next conversation.
Whangdoodle is thought to be of American origin, having popped up around the year 1856. It was first popularized after appearing in a sermon parody attributed to William P. Brannan. The specific line was published in The Harp of a Thousand Strings: Or, Laughter for a Lifetime (1858) as “Where the lion roareth and the whangdoodle mourneth for her first-born.” But what kind of creature this whangdoodle exactly is remains undefined. In fact, we could argue that its lack of definition defines it.
The word was given new life across the pond when renowned British writers Roald Dahl and Julie Andrews (yes, the Julie Andrews of Sound of Music and Mary Poppins) picked it up. The whangdoodle which occurs in Dahl’s oeuvre (e.g. The Minpins) is a terrible beast known to prey on Oompa Loompas and the occasional little child. Andrew’s book The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles, on the other hand, speaks of a kind and intelligent whangdoodle that resembles a short-legged, slipper-wearing moose with a sweet tooth.
Apart from of all the whangdoodles in (children’s) literature, however, the word can also be used more liberally, for instance, as a substitute for just about anything for which the correct name doesn’t come to mind directly, as in the examples below:
- Toss me one of the little whangdoodles, would ya? (Dictionary.com)
- Now that’s enough of your whangdoodle. (Dictionary.com)
- “… he told her she was the most beautiful horse he’d ever seen but he wouldn’t care if she were the ugliest whangdoodle in all creation, he’d still love her…” (Robert Coover (1998): Ghost Town)
- “A whangdoodle would eat ten Oompa-Loompas for breakfast and come galloping back for a second helping.” (Roald Dahl (1964): Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)
That’s all, folks! Join us next week for more Wacky Word Wednesday!
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