Whatchamadingus?

Writing a historical novel requires checking the provenance of words to make sure they are not anachronistic. Your eighteenth-century narrator cannot use the word “dingus,” for example, because it wasn’t coined until 1840. It’s something I feel pretty strongly about.

Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon called the “black bird” a dingus, slang along the lines of whatchamacallit. I’m sure that was appropriate to its time.

HUMPHREY BOGART WITH THE MALTESE FALCON

I happened to see the index of words I’ve looked up recently:

staccato, pathetic, unconscious, comatose, manumission, beatitude, hit, runabout, streetwise, kid, dingus, diffuse, eczema, fun, modern, groats, fairy, hand-me-downs, traffic, advertising, rigamarole, twerp, snug, odds, taxi, loopy, goofy, refugee, pronto, scamper, skedaddle, lynch, vogue, all the rage, frisky, borborygmus, hoodwink, four-in-hand, gig, cute, spooky, generalissimo, galumph, archipelago, genius

Do these terms give some kind of skeletal idea of what the novel’s all about? I don’t know, but it’s fun to see them all in a bunch.

4 Comments

Filed under Fiction, History, Jean Zimmerman, Writers, Writing

4 responses to “Whatchamadingus?

  1. I would give my left (fill in the blank) to go back in time and hear what words they used, what accent they had, and how they inflected those words. Wouldn’t that be interesting, though!

  2. ANN HOFFER

    My stomach is rumbling. Love that word.

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