9 Splendiferous Words from the Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary

Keystone/Getty Images
Keystone/Getty Images

Today is Roald Dahl's birthday. Fans of the author of James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The BFG, and Matilda are celebrating Roald Dahl Day with phizz-whizzing birthday parties and other wondercrump activities—and the Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary gives us a chance to explore the wonderful world of Roald Dahl's words.

The dictionary covers interesting facts, mini-etymologies, and usage points for a range of everyday words from Dahl's books, but the real fun starts in the sections on "gobblefunking" with words. Gobblefunk, a verb of Dahl's own invention, means to play creatively with sound and meaning—something the author excelled at. Here are nine other examples from the Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary.

1. ZOZIMUS

The dictionary goes from aardvark to zozimus. Aardvark makes it in because "every dictionary has to start with aardvark; otherwise it would have to start with aback, which is just too boring." Zozimus is from The BFG, and is a word for the stuff that dreams are made of.

2. GLORIUMPTIOUS

Like wondercrump and splendiferous, gloriumptious conveys pure marvelousness by blending together form and meaning from other words. In this case, glorious and scrumptious.

3. HORRIGUST

Things aren't always gloriumptious in Dahl's stories. Marvelousness has an opposite and there's no better word for it than horrigust, a blend of horrible and disgusting.

4. BIFFSQUIGGLED

Just one of the standout words in this quote from The BFG: "'You must not be giving up so easy,' the BFG said calmly. 'The first titchy bobsticle you meet and you begin shouting you is biffsquiggled.'" The dictionary describes it as capturing what it feels like when "your brain is reeling from a punch and is as muddled as a squiggly piece of doodling."

5. GROBBLESQUIRT

In addition to children, the witches in The Witches hunt creatures like the long-snouted grobblesquirt. They also hunt the blabbersnitch, and the crabcruncher.

6. WHIPPLE-SCRUMPTIOUS FUDGEMALLOW DELIGHT

This delicacy from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is not only the candy bar in which Charlie finds a Golden Ticket, it's also a phrase that manages to be exciting and delicious all at once.

7. CHURGLE

In Fantastic Mr. Fox, people churgle with laughter. Are they chuckling or gurgling? No need to decide. Why not both at the same time? There's a word for it!

8. HUGGYBEE

Giants need terms of endearment, too. The BFG tells Sophie to "stay where you is in my pocket, huggybee." It's a term as sweet as honey and as warm as a hug.

9. PROPSPOSTEROUS

It's almost preposterous, but with the wrong vowels and extra letters. Which makes propsposterous an even more preposterous word than preposterous.

This piece originally ran in 2016.

15 Long-Lost Words To Revive This Christmas

iStock.com/duncan1890
iStock.com/duncan1890

Nog. Tidings. Wassail. Every time Christmas rolls around it brings with it its own vocabulary of words you barely hear the rest of the year. But while words derived from ancient English ales (like the nog in eggnog) and Middle English greetings (wassail is thought to derive from a Germanic phrase meaning “good health!”) are one thing, some choice festive words haven’t stood the test of time, and are basically unknown outside of the dustiest corners of the dictionary.

Here are 15 long-lost and long-forgotten words to get you through the holiday season.

1. Ninguid

Derived from Latin, a landscape that is ninguid is snow-covered. And if that’s what your walk to work looks like over the festive period, you might also need to know that to meggle is to trudge laboriously through snow. (A peck-of-apples, meanwhile, is a fall on ice.)

2. Crump

That crunching sound you make walking on partially frozen snow is called crumping.

3. Hiemate

Hibernate is sleeping throughout the entire winter; hiemate is to spend winter somewhere.

4. Yuleshard

As another word for the festive period, Yule comes via Old English from jol, an ancient Scandinavian word for a series of end-of-year festivities. A yuleshard—also called a yule-jade (jade being an insult once upon a time)—is someone who leaves a lot of work still to be done on Christmas Eve night.

5. Yule-Hole

And the yule-hole is the (usually makeshift) hole you need to move your belt to after you’ve eaten a massive meal.

6. Belly-Cheer

Dating from the 1500s, belly-cheer or belly-timber is a brilliantly evocative word for fine food or gluttonous eating.

7. Doniferous

If you’re doniferous then you’re carrying a present. The act of offering a present is called oblation, which originally was (and, in some contexts, still is) a religious term referring specifically to the presentation of money or donation of goods to the church. But since the 15th century it’s been used more loosely to refer to the action of offering or presenting any gift or donation, or, in particular, a gratuity.

8. Pourboire

Speaking of gratuities, a tip or donation of cash intended to be spent on drink is a pourboire—French, literally, for “for drink.” Money given in lieu of a gift, meanwhile, has been known as present-silver since the 1500s.

9. Toe-Cover

A cheap and totally useless present? In 1940s slang, that was a toe-cover.

10. Xenium

A gift given to a houseguest, or a gift given by a guest to their host, is called a xenium.

11. Scurryfunge

Probably distantly related to words like scour or scourge, scurryfunge first appeared in the late 18th century, with meanings of “to lash” or, depending on region, “to scour.” By the mid-1900s, however, things had changed: perhaps in allusion to scrubbing or working hard enough to abrade a surface, scurryfunge came to mean “to hastily tidy a house” before unexpected company arrive.

12. Quaaltagh

Quaaltagh was actually borrowed into English in the 1800s from Manx, the Celtic-origin language spoken on the Isle of Man—a tiny island located halfway between Britain and Ireland in the Irish Sea. It was on the Isle of Man that festive tradition dictates that the identity of the first person you see (or the first to enter your house) on Christmas or New Year morning will have some bearing on the events of the year to come. And in Manx culture, the person you meet on that early-morning encounter is called the quaaltagh.

13. Lucky-Bird

We’re more likely to call them a first-footer these days, but according to old Yorkshire folklore the first person across the threshold of your home on New Year’s morning is the lucky-bird. And just like the quaaltagh, tradition dictates that the identity of the lucky-bird has an important bearing on the success of the year to come: Men are the most fortuitous lucky-birds; depending on region, either dark-haired or light-haired men might be favored (but dark-haired is more common). Other regional variations claimed the man had to be a bachelor, had to bring a gift of coal (though by the 1880s whisky was increasingly popular), and/or had to have a high arch on the foot. People with a suitable combination for their region could “become almost professional,” according to the Leeds Mercury Weekly Supplement.

14. Apolausticism

Derived from the Greek word for “to enjoy,” apolausticism is a long-lost 19th-century word for a total devotion to enjoying yourself.

15. Crapulence

Once all the festive dust and New Year confetti has settled, here’s a word for the morning after the night before: crapulence, as the Oxford English Dictionary puts it, is an 18th-century word for “sickness or indisposition resulting from excess in drinking or eating.”

Which Author Invented Each of These Words?

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