Gizmos and Thingamabobs

Photo by Luca Laurence on Unsplash

When my book group was leaving my house the other night, I offered, with a smile, to get them their wraps. When they noted that quaint locution, I recalled my fourth-grade teacher Mrs. Bender suggesting we put on our wraps before recess. I added that Mrs. Bender also advised us to “red up” our desks before leaving for the day.

Nobody knew that expression. The Internet explains that red up (sometimes spelled redd up) has a Scottish origin and and is common out Pittsburgh way. It’s short for readying up, as in “getting ready” or tidying. Maybe Mrs. Bender was from Pittsburgh. Another source traces the phrase to rural Pennsylvania and posits a Pennsylvania Dutch root. Grammarphobia cites the Middle English verb redden, meaning “to rescue, to clear.”

Whatever its source, I like it. I like regional usages and don’t think they should be disparaged as non-standard, not that anyone in my book group did that.

Dana K. White, one of my favorite YouTubers, helps me red up my house and clear out the clutter. A Texan, she uses some charming idioms. What I might call a thingy or a doohickey or a thingamajig, she calls a dololly. My grandmother’s term for such a thing was whatllIcallit, but that was more for when she couldn’t think of a thing’s name than for things that don’t have a name. The housekeeping goal, as you might imagine, is to get rid of as many dolollies as you can.

When I tried looking up Dana’s word as doolally, based on her pronunciation, I learned that doolally is British slang for “crazy.” Take care in your writing to distinguish dololly from doolally to avoid both confusion and possible offense.

Do you have some favorite local expressions? What’s your favorite word for a thingamajig?

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14 Responses to Gizmos and Thingamabobs

  1. Kathy says:

    Brenda–Doohickeys and thingamabobs!

  2. Kathy says:

    Barbara–So amazing you would mention “whopperjawed”! The YouTuber I mentioned, Dana K. White, used something like “Whomperjawed” in the same video I was referring to (see below), and I meant to allude to it but forgot! Then you brought up the term coincidentally! She used it to refer to an unsteady bookcase she decided to get rid of.

  3. Kathy says:

    Tim–Cental-ish Ohio also uses “warsh,” or did when we were kids. My husband’s mom and her family used this sometimes.

  4. Kathy says:

    Michael–Yes, some YouTubers advocate “batch cooking.” I.e., roasting a chicken and making several meals, e.g., roast chicken, chicken enchiladas, and pulled chicken sandwiches.

  5. Kathy says:

    Jewel–Whosits and whatsits.

  6. Kathy says:

    Roger–We used to say “gesundheit” too, but I don’t know why. My great grandparents were German also, but I think it was more widespread than that.

    I’ve heard the term “spider” but didn’t know where it came from. Happy to learn about the legs.

  7. Kathy says:

    Sarah–All fun words and appropriately inexact.

  8. Sarah Becker says:

    Panual (alt. form for remote control device)

  9. Roger Talbott says:

    I grew up in southwestern New York State, calling groundhogs “woodchucks” and a bucket a “pail, a sack a “bag.” All are in the Dictionary of American Regional English
    Instead of saying “bless you” when someone sneezes, I say “Gesundheit” because my parents had German-speaking great-grandparents.
    My mother always called a frying pan a “spider,” which I never understood until I visited a restored Colonial village in New England. There, by the fireplace, was a cast iron frying pan with legs on it to stand over the coals (some of my mother’s family goes back a loooong way). I am grateful for the term “Tree lawn.” It makes so much sense. Here in NYC, trees on the street grow in little 3’X3′ patches. Nothing you would call a lawn.

  10. Jewel Moulthrop says:

    Doohickey, thingamajig, and thingy.

  11. Michael Whitely says:

    Thingamabob is the same here but a variation is watchumacallit. A Minister in the Federal Government here, Andrew Leigh, has written a book Reconnected A community builder’s handbook. The subject is building social capital. He graphs the increasing disconnection over the decades, such as the decrease in union membership and volunteering. He says that new words reveal a lot about an era. The fifties introduced a ‘sickie’ (Taking a day off work to spend with friends). The 2000s introduced a colder more aggressive world with doxxing and digital detox.

    Almost all eras have passed me by but I am interested in search words to do with food. However I generally end up with Yummy Mummies (my little one loves the mush I serve, so does hubby) or influencers (who only steal their ideas from the best) or wannabe chefs (who add six sticks of butter and a carton of cream to your weeknight mashed potato). Fortunately I have found one that works ‘meal prep’ which reveals this era’s answer to the great question that confronts us all ‘What to have for dinner?’ How to arrange things so you don’t have to cook four nights out of seven. Hooray for this generation.

  12. Tim Musser says:

    I think you’re right Kathy about red/redd… my parents used it a lot for cleaning up clutter and putting it where it belongs. I grew up in central PA (Altoona) and I believe it’s PA-Dutch in origin. And our name for rubber bands is gum-bands. And anything with the word ‘wash’ was pronounced warsh like
    Go warsh the dishes a while yer at it warsh the kitchen floor.
    Our first president: George Warshington of course.

  13. Barbara Brennan says:

    Being from Indiana, I m familiar with ‘wraps’ and ‘rid up’. My favorite Hoosier expression is ‘whopperjawed’ which my sister used to describe the log cabin squares in her last quilt. The squares were not typical but were askew or ‘whopperjawed’.

    I always enjoy your emails, Kathy. Thank you.

  14. Brenda Bagby says:

    Apparently “tree lawn” is a regional term. Having used this term all of my life I was shocked when people from other locales had no idea what I was talking about.
    And as for thingamajig….What about good old “doodad”.
    Thanks for the further enlightenment on “red up”!

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