September 13 is Roald Dahl's birthday, and 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.
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.
Like wondercrump and splendiferous, gloriumptious conveys pure marvelousness by blending together form and meaning from other words. In this case, glorious and scrumptious.
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.
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."
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.
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!
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.
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.