By Mike Steely
We’ve been doing a lot of home repairing and upgrading while cocooning during the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve ventured out to get groceries and to buy items like paint, tile, etc. During these days some hardware stores have shown a big profit from fixer-uppers like us.
While shopping for home items recently I could not remember what a certain painting product was called. I found my wife in the store and asked her “What do we call that thingamajig?”
She laughed but couldn’t remember the product’s name either.
Thingamajig is but one of the terms, or slang, used to try to describe an object that we don’t know or can’t remember its name. Being a professional wordsmith I’ve asked folks on Facebook for what they call an un-named item. Wordsmith is a term that came down from blacksmith or smithy and the term smith is often used for other trades such as tunesmith or a crafts person.
I also consulted my trusty old thesaurus, given to me at my first station as a Coast Guard journalist. The elder public information guy there gave me two really important items: a thesaurus and a spelling dictionary.
Growing up, I remember some of my family would call a thing a doowhatchet or a gizmo. It always helped if someone would describe the use of the gadget by saying something like, “That doodad that you use to attach the door to the door facing.” They were describing a hinge as a doodad.
The terms we use for unknown items vary, I suppose, around the country. The thesaurus also gives terms like thingamabob, whatsit, thingummy, doohickey, dingus, doodah, doojigger, gubbins, bijou, whim-wham and folderol.
Some of those terms I’ve never heard before and probably will never use them to describe an object. Dingle-dangle is another odd term listed. That sounds oddly personal and I thought that was something that hung form a car mirror as a teen.
I’ve heard a tantrum described as a hissy fit and caddywampus used to mean something crooked. I’ve heard catty-cornered used to mean diagonal and idgit meaning idiot.
Balderdash is a term my cousins in Ohio used to use, meaning nonsense. In the South we use the word hogwash to mean the same thing. My late mother used to use the term thingy.
Other terms I’ve heard for certain un-named objects include widget which, if I recall was a non-existent marketing product in an old Rock Hudson movie. It’s a very appropriate word for an unnamed object or product. There’s a company by the name of Widgetsmith that says it can improve your computer’s home screen. I suppose smith can be added to just about anything.