Thursday, September 24, 2015

Stuff #3

Stuff #3

I’m obviously having too much fun with words meaning stuff. First one post, then a second, & now a third post all looking into words we use for our belongings.

In about 1942 the US Navy & Marines gave us the word gizmo, meaning any old thing you can’t put a name to. Nobody can verify why that particular collection of letters adopted that meaning, but such is life.

In 1824 the word thingamajig came to English, meaning an item one can’t recall the name of. It’s brethren thingy, thingumabob, thingum & thingummy all provide the same function though their dates of origin are tougher to corroborate.

Another synonym for something one can’t recall the name of is whatchamacallit, which appeared in that form in 1928, derived from what you may call it. Interestingly, the earliest word of that nature appears to be what-call-ye-hym, the precursor to our modern whatshisname.

A beautifully honest word that entered English in the 1600s meaning equipment that hinders or encumbers, is the word impedimenta. It’s the plural form of the Latin word for luggage that gets in the way, impedimentum. Ah, says the minimalist, how I would love to have the talent to identify the impedimenta in my life.

The word trappings, meaning personal effects, arrived in English in the 1400s from its 1300s form, trappe, meaning saddle blanket or ornamental cloth for a horse, which in turn came from the French word drap, a word related to the English word drape. Ah, repeats the aforesaid minimalist, for the times when all our trappings could be draped over the back of a horse (though then one would have to care for the horse, a task that sounds most unpleasant to this minimalist).

So readers, what is worthy of comment in all this stuff-talk?

Big thanks to this week’s sources: Wordnik, Etymonline, Merriam Webster, the OED.


  1. I'm sad that "gizmo" doesn't have a good backstory. It's such a cool word. I'm also fond of thingamajig and whatchamacallit, although those seem to have more obvious roots. Impedimenta is new to me. The word, not the impediments. I have way too many of those.

  2. Hi Anne - I'm with you on having too much stuff. Muchas impedimentas, perhaps? Thanks for coming by.

  3. Hey, Charlie. First thank you so very, very much for coming to my Intro to LGBT Lit class. It was so great to look out and see your smiling face. Now I gotta tell you. I use all of these words daily from gizmo to thingamajig because at my age I can't remember what things are called. When I worked in disabilities this was called word retrieval, expressive aphasia, etc. I know what I have for sure I just don't know how the heck to fix it:) Great fun post as usual. Paul

  4. Hey Paul,
    It's always good to "hear" your voice, whether at the CCWC or here on Wordmonger. In a related expressive aphasia story, my sister & I spent a lot of time laughing when we really needed to laugh. We were in the process of cleaning out our folks' house & discovered that our brains were unable to access any nouns. At a time when many may have been crying, we were crying because we were laughing so hard.