From the Editor: Archives
Dec 04, 2015
There is a set of words that are humorous names for an object or device for which you can’t produce the correct name. Pass me the thingummyjig you say, hoping that the other person will realise what is wanted.
Thingummyjig or thingummy is straightforward enough – thing with a funny fancy ending. Whatsit is short for What is it?
What-d’ye-call-it is an assimilated form of What you might call it. Doover (with its variant dooverlackie) could be derived from do for as in that will do for now, although another suggestion is that it is from a Yiddish word.
Where gooligum comes from I have no idea. Oojah or hoojar is also a bit of mystery although there is speculation that it is a World War I item borrowed from the Arabic phrase oojah capivvy meaning ‘there’s no more to be said about it’.
It seems to be an area of language where people like to be inventive. There is a certain one-upmanship in producing an elaborate and convincingly pseudo-technical word which ultimately means ‘I haven’t got a clue what the thing is called’.
What do you call that thing you don't know the name of? Tell us in the comments below.
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