Yesterday I was having breakfast with my four year old daughter and I was asking her to pass the cereal. I couldn’t remember the name of it, so I said “pass the whatchamacallit”. My daughter burst out laughing thinking it was the funniest word in the world. She also thought I made it up.
I explained to her that whatchamacallit is a word you say when you can’t remember the name for something. Looking it up in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), I discovered it’s a pronunciation for what-you-may-call-it. According to the OED, the first known reference to it in print goes back to 1928 and it’s mainly heard in the U.S.
The OED also mentions what-d’ye-call-‘em dating back to at 1639. I’ve never heard it this way and I assume that’s the way it’s heard in Britain.
After getting such a laugh from my daughter out of saying whatchamacallit, I couldn’t resist finding other similar words to say to her. I next came up with thingamajig which got another laugh.
Thingamajig goes back to 1824 and it’s another word you can say in English when you forget the name of something.
The OED also mentions thingamobob which is seen in print even farther back… 1751. I’ll have to remember to say this one to my daughter too! They also mention, thingummy and thing-o-me which I’ve never heard of in the U.S.
Today, I thought of whosywhatsit. The OED hasn’t even acknowledged this word yet! It’s generally used when you forget a person’s name (but can also be used if you forget the name of an object). That one got a big laugh too.
I’m happy to have found such an easy way to make my daughter laugh. If you know of any other funny words, or if you’d like to let us know what you say in your language when you can’t think of the name of something, please comment below!
This article was posted on Tuesday, February 28th, 2006 at 3:16 pm and is filed under Countries & Cultures, English, Languages, Mama Lisa, Thingamabob, Thingamajig, United Kingdom, USA, Whatchamacallit, Whosywhatsit, Words & Phrases. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
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