Roald Dahl. The very name floods our thoughts with memories of a childhood spent poring over his wonderful books – BFG, Matilda, James And The Giant Peach… the list goes on.
Dahl’s legacy extends far past his work. Much like Shakespeare before him, Dahl was a master of crafting strange, inventive words to describe those elements of his stories that the boring, old English language simply couldn’t do justice to.
Gobblefunk is the name given to Roald Dahl’s own language and it consists of over 250 words that dot Dahl’s imaginative literary landscape. The word gobblefunk seems to come from gobbledegook, a kind of language that’s made up of meaningless words.
After reading the Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary, we can’t help but feel like some of these words will come in handy in our everyday lives when what we need to say transcends the limitations of existing adjectives. So here’s our guide on how to use some of Dahl’s unique words in normal conversation.
Meaning: Messy writing
This word first made an appearance in The BFG. We think this could be an interesting addition to your office vocabulary, if only to keep things from getting too dull.
Me: “Hey, could you lend me a pen? I need it for some squibbling.”
Colleague: “Um… why are you scribbling at work?”
Me: “Not scribbling, silly, squibbling. It means messy writing.”
Colleague: “So… exactly like scribbling then?”
Colleague: “You’re so frothbuggling!”
Trust Dahl to come up with a word that sounds just as silly as its meaning. What fun it would be if we could drop this one in conversation just to see the reactions we’d get.
Me: I’m in such a frothbuggling mood today.
Colleague: I’m sorry, what?
Colleague: If you use words like that I’m going to have to report you to HR.
Me: But why?!?
Colleague: Because I’ve never buggered froth! Or anything else for that matter!
Me: Oh my, please tell me I’m just having a trogglehumper!
Colleague: Damn it! What did I just tell you?!?
Meaning: A terrible dream
This word sounds just as nasty as that awful dream you keep having about the murderous clown turning up at your birthday party? Wait, no one else has that nightmare – so, it’s just me then?
Me: Mom, I had such a terrible dream last night. There was his great big monster chasing after me.
Mom: Oh! Don’t worry, beta, that’s just a trogglehumper.
Me: Now there’s a trogglehumper after me?! Wasn’t the killer clown enough?
Mom: No, silly, that’s just Roaldspeak for ‘nightmare’. Now go back to bed and try not to think about theVermicious Knids under your bed.
Me: (Whimpers and curls up into a ball)
Meaning: A very bad, murderous alien.
These carnivorous and vicious alien creatures made their appearance in Charlie And The Great Glass Elevator,the sequel to Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, and gave an entire generation of kids their first alien scare.
Friend: Have you heard about Donald Trump trying to deport all illegal aliens from the country?
Me: That’s a good thing. Don’t want any Vermicious Knids lurking around, do we?
Friend: What in hell are you talking about?
Me: Vermicious Knids. They’re a particularly nasty kind of alien from outer space.
Friend: (Laughing uncontrollably) Not that kind of alien. I mean illegal non-US nationals.
Me: But what’s so bad about those? Not like they can lixivate you or anything.
Friend: Your absolute lack of political know-how is astounding.
Meaning: Being turned into liquid and being squashed at the same time.
Could there be a worse way to die than from being turned into liquid – bones and all – and then being squashed? Yes, Dahl could certainly think up some gruesome ways to go.
Me: Hey man, I can’t come over this weekend. I have a ton of work.
Friend: You have to take work home over the weekend? That sounds awful.
Me: Tell me about it. I feel like this job is going to lixivate me sometimes.
Friend: Your life sounds ucky-mucky right now.
Me: You read Roald Dahl, too? This is why we’re friends.
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This one isn’t so hard to guess the meaning of, but the way Dahl uses it immediately brings to mind childish feelings of repulsion.
Dad: Beta, you have to eat your baingan bharta.
Me: But, dad, I hate bharta. It’s so ucky-mucky.
Dad: Yes, but it’s very good for you, so stop making a fuss and eat.
Me: But, dad, it makes me want to whizzpop.
Dad: I’ll have none of that talk at the dinner table. We’re trying to eat here!
Well, it wouldn’t be a proper Roald Dahl article without something silly included, would it? Whizzpopping is considered a wonderful thing to do by the giants in BFG and some of them even whizzpop so mightily that it can lift them clear off the ground!
Beans, beans, they’re good for your stomach,
The more you eat, the more you whizzpop.
The more you whizzpop, the better you feel,
So eat your beans with every meal!
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Cover Image artwork: Aditi Sharma