Roald Dahl was a British storyteller, widely remembered for his child heroes, who took down grotesque bullies disguised as friendly neighbourhood adults. Thanks to him, Chocolate Factories suddenly made it to kids’ wishlists (only second to Disneyland), and people poured into libraries, half hoping they could acquire telekinetic powers if they read enough books. Roald Dahl not only reinvented the narrative of good over evil in the literary genre, but he took delight in creating a space for fantasy that was his very own, by inventing close to five hundred words!
In celebration for his birthday, which is on the 13th of September, we explore this lexicon of words that you could perhaps include in your own vocabulary, either to regress to a much more carefree time in your life, or merely because sometimes it is only fitting to call a fizzwiggler a fizzwiggler.
It is only felicitous to begin this list with this word, which according to the Oxford Dictionary, means, ‘Resembling or characteristic of the works of Roald Dahl.’ And this would roughly translate to any work that has eccentric plots, loathsome adult characters, and children portrayed with superhuman powers. The term was first used in 1983 by the literary magazine Books Ireland.
Roald Dahl is known for playing with sounds to convey meaning, and these oompa loompas who danced around and played music, were made more famous by the 1971 film adaptation of his book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Believe it or not, but these diminutive workers in Willy Wonka’s factory have their own place in the dictionary. The word is now used to characterise someone who is either extremely small in size or appears orange from tanning.
These precious pieces of paper were hidden in chocolate bars that granted access to Willy Wonka’s breathtaking workshop. This phrase was made fashionable thanks to the resounding success of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and is now popularly used to describe ‘something, usually unexpected, that can lead to opportunity or fortune for a select recipient’ according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
Apart from these well-known adjectives and phrases, the Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary was published in 2016, to commemorate the author’s one hundredth birthday. This lexicon of words invented by the author has a separate term for itself — gobblefunk. This compilation includes a host of his words and expressions with letter combinations that are fun to pronounce, such as –ozz, –izz, –iggle or -obble, like fizzwiggler, the whiffswiddle and the grobblesquirt. He also built new words from old, swopping prefixes and blending syllables to create words like splendiferous, scrumdiddlyumptious, and poppyrot.
So if you feel biffsquiggled (confused), waste no time and pick up the Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary; and have a phizz-whizzing (splendid) weekend!
Text Janani Venkateswaran