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Did you know Roald Dahl invented 500 words and character names, from the Oompa-Loompas and whizzpopping to the less well known humplecrimp, lixivate and zoonk? Susan Rennie, chief editor of The Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary, takes us on phizz-whizzing tour of the most scrumdiddlyumptious words
Have you ever wondered what language Oompa-Loompas speak, or what the plural is of quadropus, or what rhymes with frobscottle? Or what the difference is between a whangdoodle and a giant wangdoodle (hint: only one is deadly)? Then the Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary is here to help you.
Roald Dahl invented over 500 words and character names, from the famousOompa-Loompas and whizzpopping to lesser-known Dahlisms like humplecrimp,lixivate, sogmire and zoonk, but this is the first time many of them have featured in a dictionary. It may also be the first time that the words snozzberry,snozzcumber and snozzwanger have appeared on the same page as one another, as they occur in different stories. Whereas slimy snozzcumbers grow in Giant Country, the more appetizing snozzberries are found, contrariwise, in the land of the tiny Minpins (though somehow Willy Wonka also manages to source them for his lickable wallpaper). And snozzwangers? Well, you’ll have to look in the dictionary for those.
Dahl knew how much children (and their grown-ups) love words like these, with letter combinations that are fun to pronounce, such as –ozz or –izz, or –iggle or -obble: hence creations like the fizzwiggler, the whiffswiddle and thegrobblesquirt (who wouldn’t like saying grobblesquirt?), as well as gobblefunkitself, the name we now give to the lexicon of words he invented. He often built new words from old, swopping prefixes and blending syllables to create words like mispise, poppyrot and sogmire; and he particularly loved the word play of alliteration (good for insults such as grizzly old grunion) and spoonerisms, such asmideous harshland or the inspired Dahl’s Chickens (aka Charles Dickens).
All these words, and many like them, feature in the new dictionary. But a Dahl dictionary needs to help readers young and old to navigate through the whole of Dahl’s world, so it also explains unusual words you may encounter there, such assteeplejack and rapscallion, as well as more humdrum words which have special significance in the stories, such as the humble alarm-clock and egg-beater (used in unlikely ways by witches and giants respectively). And if you are a budding Matilda, it will also help you to find the perfect word to describe Dahl’s characters, whether they be hirsute (Mr Twit), asinine (Mr Wormwood) or oviform(Knids) – and to learn some very rude words used by giants (let’s just saybopmuggered).
So don’t be biffsquiggled any longer! Here are some key Dahl words from the dictionary:
If you feel biffsquiggled, you are confused or puzzled. The word biffsquiggled is made up of biff ‘punch’ and squiggled, as when you are biffsquiggled, you feel as if your brain is reeling from a punch and is as muddled as a squiggly piece of doodling.
Frobscottle is a green fizzy drink that giants drink instead of water. Unlikesnozzcumbers it tastes delicious. The bubbles in frobscottle sink down rather than rise up, so if you drink a lot, you end up whizzpopping.
If you gobblefunk with words, you play around with them and invent new words or meanings. The word gobblefunk sounds a bit like gobbledegook, a kind of language that some grown-ups use that is full of meaningless words.
A human bean is what the giants of Giant Country call a human. (It sounds a bit like human being, but tastier.) Most giants eat human beans, but the BFG is a vegetarian giant, so he only eats snozzcumbers.
A snozzcumber is a knobbly vegetable like an enormous cucumber with black and white stripes. Snozzcumbers taste disgusting but they are all the BFG has to eat, as he refuses to hunt human beans like other giants.
Phizz-whizzing and whizzpopping may sound similar, but they mean very different things! Something that is phizz-whizzing is excellent or splendid.Whizzpopping, on the other hand, is what happens when air comes out of your bottom with a popping sound (as when you drink a lot of frobscottle). Giants findwhizzpopping more socially acceptable than burping.
Scrumdiddlyumptious food is utterly delicious. The Fleshlumpeating Giant is very keen to eat the Queen, as he thinks she will have ‘an especially scrumdiddlyumptious flavour.’
A trogglehumper is one of the very worst nightmares you can have. (Words that Dahl invented that start with trog– always mean unpleasant things!)
Zozimus is what dreams are made of. The BFG whisks zozimus with an egg-beater until it forms bubbles just like soapy water.
Susan Rennie is the chief editor of the Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary 2016, and all definitions in this article are taken from the book.
This article is published in The Guardian.com.