More Nonsense Words

Writing last week about YouTuber Dana K. White’s dololly and other weird words, I intended to move on to whomper-jawed, Dana’s adjective for a rickety bookshelf she was getting rid of. But I forgot and moved on instead to thingamajigs and whatllIcallits.

How amazingly coincidental that reader and friend Barbara B., in her comment, referred to whopper-jawed, a common variant, which can also be spelled wapper-jawed, womper-jawed, and even whompsey-jawed. Words used more often in speech than writing often have multiple spellings, because no authority has stepped forward to standardize it. The variants are part of the charm.

I love whomper-jawed and all its variations. I intend to use it whenever I can, and our old house’s many whomper-jawed dolollies provide plenty of opportunities.

Which brings up a charming synonym, cattywampus, also spelled catawampus. It means “askew,” “messy,” “disordered.” I’ve probably heard the word in other contexts, but remember it fondly from an episode of The Office in which Andy, played by Ed Helms, straightened Dwight’s sport coat, admonishing him, “Do not walk around with your jacket cattywampus!” (At about 2:15) I was delighted to shoehorn the word into A Grandmother’s ABC Book, describing some of my embroidery that might have gone cattywampus. On the C is for Cat page, no less!

The Internet is rich with websites explaining such weird old-fashioned and regional usages. One includes a term dear to our current President, malarkey, referring to “talk that is particularly foolish.” Biden’s No Malarkey Tour, part of his Iowa campaign in 2019, raised issues about his age and relevance. Young people didn’t know the meaning of the word and therefore, I guess, might not vote for him. We could refer them to this Merriam-Webster page, which explains the term’s synonym, trumpery.

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3 Responses to More Nonsense Words

  1. Kathy says:

    Sarah–You mentioned the book in a comment in September of last year. (I have a search function!) I’m putting it on my library request list. So many interesting words to encounter! Yesterday I heard a story about some old timer’s calling his dentures “grinners.” That’s a good one.

  2. Sarah Becker says:

    Have we discussed the book The dictionary of lost words by Pip Williams here? It concerns words used in speech that don’t make it into the Oxford English Dictionary because of the cultural mind-set of the editors/gatekeepers. There are of course dictionaries of slang and unconventional English. But is a word unconventional if it is widely used among a particular population, even a small one? And aren’t we all going to look for opportunities to use whomper-jawed now that we’ve learned it?

  3. Doreen Kelleher says:

    I love the word shenanigans especially after watching the movie Juno.

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