Friday 30 October 2009

Whatjamacallit and Thingummyjig

I love the names people have for things - and the way that in different parts of the so-called "English speaking" world we call the same item by different names.

Steph started this train of thought in a phone call last night by telling me she had referred to someone as a Gugnunc - our family name for someone who has acted rather stupidly [derivation here] and another friend had been very taken with this word.

Another of our family words is Grollies -  small things which get where they shouldn't  - eg 'There's a grollie floating in my coffee' [although I think in other places they have even more unsavoury definitions for that word!]

strimmer Then today  I was reading an Australian blog and the writer had been gardening - with a "Whipper Snipper", a term I'd not heard before - although I knew that in the USA they call them "Weed Whackers"

Here they have the much less exciting moniker** "Strimmer" [from "String Trimmer" ]

seesaw Then of course there is the children's playground equipment the see-saw. In the USA this is a teeter-totter. But that term probably went across the Atlantic from here - the old Norfolk dialect word is tittertotter, or tittermatotter.


stitchwitchery And what do craftswomen call that wonderful invention which we use for quickly holding up hems - the iron on adhesive stuff that Brits call Bondaweb?

In many places it goes by the name Stitch Witchery.

So many of these names involve 'reduplication' - and the super-duper Susie Dent was talking about this on Countdown the other week. There's a great list of such words here.

But enough of this shilly-shallying - I've got work to do!

**Although there are various theories about the origin of this word, the most widely accepted is that it comes from 'Shelta' the language of Irish travellers. It's believed to have derived from the Irish word ainm, and became munik in Shelta. It had spread to London as a slang word for "name" by 1851. The first line of the Lord's Prayer translated into a modern version of Shelta is: "Our gathra, who cradgies in the manyak-norch, we turry kerrath about your moniker."

1 comment:

  1. I'm going to start calling the weed whacker a whipper snapper. Funny.


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