Made-Up Names

Last night my daughter was texting a friend and accidentally exposed herself to ridicule while complaining about chores by referring to our vacuum cleaner as “R2.” She then had to explain that we’ve always called our vaguely droid-shaped, canister model after the Star Wars bot.

When I was a teenage pothead, I was a sort of MacGyver of bong and pipe-making, fashioning smoking implements out of such diverse materials as sweet potatoes, empty cigarette packs, shampoo bottles, etc. Once, while casting about for pipe-making materials at a friend’s house, I asked if there was a “goodle” available:


From the gaping incomprehension that greeted this request followed by a mortifying outburst of laughter when I explained what I meant, I learned that no one else calls the cardboard tubes that form the structure of paper towel or toilet paper rolls “goodles.”

My siblings and I grew up thinking “goodle” was an honest-to-god, dictionary-certified word for an everyday item. Everyone in our family calls them that – aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. But it turns out my grandmother just made the term up because, as far as she knew, there wasn’t a proper name for it, and she thought it should have one.

Do you use made-up words for nameless items or have nicknames for household things that occasionally slip into everyday conversation? Just wondering how widespread a phenomenon it is. Feel free to treat this as an open thread, even though it may qualify as serious research.

[X-posted at Balloon Juice]

Posted by Betty Cracker on 03/12/13 at 06:47 AM • Permalink

Categories: Messylaneous

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It’s worth wandering over to Balloon Juice to see what may possibly be the fastest-growing early morning thread ever (certainly one of the fastest I’ve seen recently).


No, no.  Oh, heck no!

Y’all must be freaks, man!


Perfect timing on your post idea, Betty!

I was actually having a long conversation with a group of my friends just the other day, trying to find or coin a word or phrase to describe the following.  Ya know when an evil genius, having just finished the monologue explaining his doomsday scheme to the helpless hero, cackles, and rubs his hands together excitedly?  Like he’s brimming with evil glee, and can’t not do it?  This hand gesture needs a name.  I think I have now described the gesture 5 or 6 times in my life.

Oh, and my favorite made-up word is still “zerpert,” with credits to Bill Cosby for coining the perfect onomatopeoia for something that every person playing with a child younger than 10 has done, forever.

When my brother’s granddaughter recently saw their sump pump discharge into the yard, her father explained that “the house was peeing.”

Makes perfect sense.

@ Lowkey—“gleevil” occurs to me, but that captures the state of mind better than the gesture that expresses it. Hmmmmm.

My husband coined the term dir-dir for a paper towel goodle.  Because you can hold the opening up to your mouth, go DIR-DUH-DIR!! and have an instant musical instrument. It excited the heck out of our dogs because after the concert he’d talk to them through it and then let them have the dir-dir to shred.

Not quite a made-up name, but my younger sister once insisted that if collective wearing apparel is “clothes”, one item is a “clo”.

@marindenver: “My husband coined the term dir-dir for a paper towel goodle.”

I’m not necessarily disputing your husband’s claim to being a neologist, but I saw the term “dir-dir” mentioned back in the 1960s in the book, “A Child’s Garden of Grass” by Jack S. Margolis. It was, of course, part of the chapter on making impromptu pipes for smoking weed.

While we’re on the subject… I once had to make an impromptu pipe around that time (yes I’m an old bastard) after having gone into a nearby woods with my girlfriend. Now, another impromptu pipe design uses the barrel of a Bic pen (or similar) as the stem with a bowl fashioned from tinfoil. My girlfriend has a stick of gum in her purse, which used a foil wrapper. I had a “Stop the War” button on my jacket with a pin to poke holes in the foil. But we had no pen (or dir-dir) to make a stem. But she did have one thing in her purse that many women carry, which did have a cardboard tube as part of its construction…

Hmm, is there another word for that besides “applicator”?

@Betty: Gleevil is brilliant.  And I always liked “mastursplain” for the derivation of pleasure from the act of explaining something, especially when the person getting explained at isn’t happy about it.

I feel like we’re going to crack this one, today.

“Mastursplain” is perfect in every single way.  Having been for many years in a male-dominated field, plus having an overbearing engineer of a father, well, all I cna say is mastursplain speaks to me.  Loudly. 

In our housegold, ‘thingee’ is the universal word for anything that needs/has a name but brain fog isn’t allowing for a successful search and retrieval process.

I assume everybody has Rich Hall’s definitive Sniglets book…

(A “sniglet” is any word that doesn’t appear in the dictionary, but should.)

Also, I always liked “blahg”—a boring blog. I often use it to describe my own blog when I haven’t posted anything interesting in a while.

I’m not necessarily disputing your husband’s claim to being a neologist, but I saw the term “dir-dir” mentioned back in the 1960s in the book, “A Child’s Garden of Grass”

LOL, well we met in college in the 60’s so quite possibly he picked the term up rather than inventing it. ;-)

In our house, we have portmanteau’d “horrorfried”—when you’ve had a day so frazzling that whatever happenes next is just icing on the cake, you can’t even be properly shocked anymore.  Also, there’s “regruntling”—obviously, if a person can get disgruntled, they need a new supply of gruntle to sort themselves out.

Use: What with the traffic jam, the staff call-outs, and that deadine coming up, I was so horrorfried by the end of the day that I needed a serious regruntling.

Your “goodle” is the core.

And gawd amighty, I shudder at the thought of how much aluminium I ingested while smoking from those suckers.

In our housegold, ‘thingee’ is the universal word for anything that needs/has a name but brain fog isn’t allowing for a successful search and retrieval process.

The quite proper name for that brainfog you experience when you’re mentally searching for a word but coming up empty is called “Lethilogica” so now you know, & knowing is half the battle.

G. I. Jooooooooooooooeee!!!

@SOaS: Thank you!  Mastursplainers are The.  Worst.  I felt they deserved something sufficiently derogatory.

@Vixen: I am stealing regruntle.  Reminds me of the Balloon Juice classic “rebunk,” which I always loved.

As to my own quandry, the best I could come up with was “sinistrub”, but it just doesn’t feel fully baked.

Comment by Lowkey on 03/13/13 at 10:50 AM

Glad somebody mentioned sniglets. Back in the day I submitted “hairobics” which is the effect of static electricity on your hair.

Also, when I was little my mom used to feed us deviled eggs with a carrot stick poking up in the middle. She called them “egg boats”. That’s the only term I knew until I was an adult.

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