in Wacky Word Wednesday

Mundungus – Wacky Word Wednesday

Wave your wand, smoke that cigar, and settle in for today’s Wacky Word Wednesday, a weekly celebration of the wackiest and most interesting words from around the world!

From TermWiki.com, the definition of today’s wacky word:

quo top

mun·dun·gus

[muhn-duhng-guhs]

-noun
Foul-smelling tobacco

quo botMundungus

Mundungus is derived from the Latinized adaptation of the Spanish word mondongo, which means tripe or intestines. Mondongo is also related to modejo, which means belly of a pig.

When it was first borrowed from the Spanish in the 17th century, mundungus took on the same meaning as mondongo. It was then altered to describe the edible offal of an animal or the less appetizing definition, “uncleaned entrails of a beast, full of filth.” From there, it began being used to define foul-smelling tobacco. Quite the leap, but we suppose the connection can still be made.

The history of tobacco stretches to prehistoric times. Last year, scientists uncovered fossilized tobacco that dates back to approximately 2.5 million years ago, during the Pleistocene Era, in northeastern Peru. It wasn’t until 6000 BC that the tobacco plant began growing in the Americas, and it took until 1 BC for people to begin using tobacco.

Fast-forward to Columbus’ journey in search of the New World. As he was sailing the ocean blue, Columbus happened upon what is present-day Cuba. Thinking it was China, he sent two Spaniard sailors, Rodrigo de Jerez and Luis de Torres, in search of the emperor. During their exploration, they came across some natives who were smoking and gave in to curiosity: “After lighting one end, they commenced ‘drinking’ the smoke through the other. Jerez became a confirmed smoker….”

He became so accustomed to this habit, that upon his return to Europe, he continued smoking, “but the smoke billowing from his mouth and nose so frightened his neighbors he was imprisoned by the holy inquisitors for 7 years. By the time he was released, smoking was a Spanish craze.” Rodrigo de Jerez is still considered to be the first European smoker.

Aside from malodorous tobacco, mundungus also carries a definition of a different meaning. J.K. Rowling’s widely popular Harry Potter series has much to do with it: one of the wizard characters in the book is named Mundungus Fletcher. His personality and habits appear to be as foul and unappealing as his name suggests, known in the wizard world as an untrustworthy thief who has a tendency to smoke from a pipe and smell of tobacco.

If you have any thoughts about mundungus, about either the odorous tobacco or the Harry Potter character, feel free to share below! And those of you loyal readers who smoke out there, although we love you, you might consider quitting for your own health and that of others.

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  1. Hahah. Best Wacky Word ever. Mundungus is an awesome character in the Harry Potter series, and he’s very aptly named. I didn’t realize that this word originally came from Spanish — very cool etymology!