The Made Up Words Project
February 10, 2014 10:21 AM   Subscribe

The Made Up Words Project is an on-going undertaking by illustrator Rinee Shah (who you may remember from her Seinfood poster series.) The goal is to collect and catalog the made up words that we share with family and friends.
posted by BuddhaInABucket (56 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
I love made-up words! They always seem more logical to me than "real" words. See also The Meaning of Liff, Rich Hall's Sniglets and the Dave Gorman Podcast Listeners' Lexicon.
posted by Nossidge at 10:31 AM on February 10, 2014

Underwear (noun) ghot-chees "He stripped down to his gotchies" - Maura M., Mt. Carmel, Pennsylvania

"Gitches" as a word for underwear is actually in common use in Manitoba. I'll admit that it would be hard to invent a culture weirder than Manitoba's.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:33 AM on February 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

At least a couple of these are of slavic origin (Gotchies = Ґачі, Dupa = Дупа) so not really made up.
posted by Kabanos at 10:35 AM on February 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

Reminds me of this AskMe.
posted by univac at 10:36 AM on February 10, 2014

Thirding "gotchies" as not made up. It's a regional thing here in Western PA.
posted by octothorpe at 10:36 AM on February 10, 2014

These are rad!
posted by The Minotaur at 10:37 AM on February 10, 2014

My friends and I have a word for the unironic cowboy hat worn by an obvious non-cowboy, we call them Gankers.

"I couldn't see the band, the guy in front of me never took off his ganker."
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:37 AM on February 10, 2014

Barking spider isn't made up either.
posted by mochapickle at 10:38 AM on February 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Reminds me of this AskMe.

Also this totally delightful AskMe!
posted by aka burlap at 10:39 AM on February 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

This fibula is very flargmot, thanks all you drebnars!
posted by JHarris at 10:42 AM on February 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Sorrs - pronounced "sars" - created to fill in the gap from the discusion: "We say the words 'I'm sorry' so often in our day to day life that the words have lost all meaning, so lets have a new word that gets that impulse out of the way but aren't actually a full apology for something."

(Don't know how that one would be illustrated, however, as I don't believe there is a universally acknowledged symbol for codependence.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:43 AM on February 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

(Each of those is a made-up word that's been in personal currency at some time or other. "Fibula" is a random bit of nonsense spoken by a young Seaman, "drebnar" is the improvised name for the alien insect steeds in The Asylum's version of A Princess Of Mars, as depicted in the imagined Martian TV show "My Little Drebnar," and flargmot I'm not sure where it came from. It's very gormpik.)
posted by JHarris at 10:45 AM on February 10, 2014

My kids have loads of them. One of my favorites is "vuticle", which started as a mispronunciation of "vehicle", but has remained in their vocabulary to refer specifically to vehicles they make out of legos, knex, etc.
posted by gimli at 10:51 AM on February 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

My wife and I made up a word that we use so casually and frequently that our kids certainly believe it's a "real" word: Yamb (Yet Another Miscellaneous Bag)

It functions as both a verb and a noun. For example, as a verb: "Company's coming in half an hour. We don't have time to go through all the crap on the dining room table, just yamb it!" As a noun: "Have you seen my flip flops?" "Try that yamb over there behind the couch."
posted by ericbop at 10:53 AM on February 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

Guys they're all made up
posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 10:54 AM on February 10, 2014 [22 favorites]

Geez, no "cromulent" reference yet? Pfeh.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:58 AM on February 10, 2014 [5 favorites]

I like this. I also like, for different but of course similar reasons, my friend's project Words That Aren't.
posted by knile at 10:58 AM on February 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

At least a couple of these are of slavic origin (Gotchies = Ґачі, Dupa = Дупа) so not really made up.

I bet a fair amount of these have origins in other languages. My partner is Romanian/Hungarian and our kid derives practically his entire vocab for bodily functions and private parts from those languages. Sometimes, not in a literal way, either. Passing gas, for example, is making a "bomba" or bomb. It's not really weird word creating, it's just a trick to make it less obvious when our kid is talking about farting in public.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:59 AM on February 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Geez, no "cromulent" reference yet? Pfeh.

Meh. I came here to make a cromulent reference.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:01 AM on February 10, 2014

Yoni has always meant ladyparts in my world, which makes the yonies=good vibes one my favorite. I wonder if someone in their world has an inner Beavis and Butthead moment when they hear "Send Timmy's dad good yonies while he's in the hospital!"
posted by eggkeeper at 11:10 AM on February 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Geez, no "cromulent" reference yet? Pfeh.
Meh. I came here to make a cromulent reference.

Whoops, looks like I jumped the whickeydo.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:20 AM on February 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

As mentioned by a child/ redditor, all words are made up at first.

damn, So You're Saying These Are Pants? beat me to the idea.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:24 AM on February 10, 2014

Two of my favorite coined words: Vundadunda and Bappitabappita.

The first is the sound made when you fall down awkwardly but don't actually hurt yourself or others, or it could be just a large object tumbling. "That thing came vundadunda down the hillside right at us!"

The second has to do with rolls of fat and a bouncy walk; bappitabappita is a verbalization of the sight of all that bouncing flesh. "Oh man, wearing that awful bathing suit I felt all bappitabappita. I need to be contained!"
posted by kinnakeet at 11:47 AM on February 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Guys they're all made up

I guess my disappointment here lies in the artist's decision to use regional terms, not just small circles of families and friends (2-7 people). I clicked looking forward to seeing new words I'd never seen, from people I'd never meet, just to see a fuller scope of how language works in the micro level. Several of my friends and I have developed unique spelling / usage that brings us closer together. Entire chats would look like garble to outsiders. I had hoped I'd have a window into how others do this.

The illustrations are wonderful, though.
posted by mochapickle at 11:52 AM on February 10, 2014

This gem from Curious George's ABCs deserves a definition: blimlimlim.
posted by dr_dank at 11:58 AM on February 10, 2014

Guys they're all made up

The emperor has no clothes!
posted by Foosnark at 12:05 PM on February 10, 2014


not to be confused with hoppitamoppita.
posted by Kabanos at 12:07 PM on February 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

A large group of my friends have used the word boophus ['bu.fəs] since high school. It's such a part of my regular lexicon I often completely forget it isn't a real word. Of course, on the other hand, it is a real word, isn't it?
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:12 PM on February 10, 2014

We use the verb "to skink" in our house to mean messing around, but specifically in water. As in, many a time when I was doing the dishes as a kid and taking forever or messing around with the bubbles, my Mum would come in and say "Stop skinking and hurry up." She said her Mum used it and I always thought it was just a rural Irish word, but I've asked loads of people over the years and no one else has ever heard of it, so I'm assuming it was a made-up family word. It's fun to say so I'm keeping it. (Skinking itself is also fun.)
posted by billiebee at 12:15 PM on February 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

"The novelist, what’s his name, Markfield, has written in a story somewhere that until he was fourteen he believed “aggravation” to be a Jewish word. Well, this was what I thought about “tumult” and “bedlam,” two favorite nouns of my mother’s. Also “spatula.” I was already the darling of the first grade, and in every schoolroom competition, expected to win hands down, when I was asked by the teacher one day to identify a picture of what I knew perfectly well my mother referred to as a “spatula.” But for the life of me I could not think of the word in English. Stammering and flushing, I sank defeated into my seat, not nearly so stunned as my teacher but badly shaken up just the same …"

-Philip Roth
posted by ostro at 12:33 PM on February 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

I thought a lot of my dad's unusual words were made up until I took a trip to Malta with him, where he had grown up, and discovered that they were actually Maltese. If I was being silly, I was called a "chooch" (ċooċ in Maltese) and if my goofing around was getting annoying, I'd be told to "Stop chooching around!" Poop was called "pooffy" and my father insists that the Maltese for pumpernickel is "hops-tal-poofi" which would be literally translated as "bread-of-poop".

Also he routinely attached the word "engine" to anything mechancial or electrical. Of those phrases, "coffee engine" has endured so well my sons were unaware until their late teens that the appliance that makes coffee is NOT called a coffee engine but a coffee maker.

Bloom County's Opus gave my husband and me "whoosher-swoosher". In at least one panel, Opus was transfixed by late-night advertising for an appliance that "slice and dices; it whooshes, it swooshes". So in our house, just about any appliance might be called a "whoosher-swoosher". So far we haven't called anything a "whoosher-swoosher engine", but it's not entirely out of the question.
posted by angiep at 12:38 PM on February 10, 2014 [5 favorites]

There was an illustrated joke book or series back in the 80s that featured made-up words. I'll have to go search for it; it was one of those little books they would stick at the counter of Waldenbooks for impulse buyers. They were great on road trips.
posted by Brocktoon at 12:57 PM on February 10, 2014

eggkeeper, I had exactly the same reaction to the yonis. I'm guessing the illustrator didn't know about it, though.
posted by dlugoczaj at 1:03 PM on February 10, 2014

Netflix is often inconsistent when showing you the episode recaps that are often tacked onto the beginning of new episodes. For instance, more often then not if you watched an episode of something on your playstation 3, netflix will automatically skip ahead to the new scenes, bypassing those recaps. It almost never does this if you're streaming it on a desktop browser.

I recently started watching Supernatural, which has more then 150 episodes. My boyfriend, who lives some distance away from me, wanted to watch some of the episodes with me. We kept running into problems of him or I being almost a minute or so ahead of one another, having to pause until the other person catches up, and communicating where we're at. (also complicating the matters is that on once device, netflix displays the minutes that have passed and on another device, displays how many are left)

We figured out that it was because someone didn't have those episode recaps.

You know how tv shows have that announcer guy, or just some text saying: "PREVIOUSLY ON THE WALKING DEAD..."

So we started calling those recaps "previouslies" and I always got a kick out of that, because on first read it's like "Hold on, I have previous lies from the old episode.."
posted by royalsong at 1:20 PM on February 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

" puet"
as in " I would puet."
My daughter and I have often told each other that we would, " pick you everytime". When we began texting we came up with this handy acronym. It is pronounced " poo-ay" ( very Frenchy )....:)
posted by haikuku at 1:30 PM on February 10, 2014

There must be some good sociolinguistic scholarship on how idiolectal (or is that idioglossal?) words — which, yeah, should be separated from regionalisms and loanwords — are coined and spread and dropped in family and friend groups. Do the linguist MeFites have any refs handy?

The word from my childhood friend-group that I still sometimes miss being able to use more broadly is "wummy," a verb meaning to abuse a cheap but very effective tactic in a video game. Like, "Come on, you're just wummying me with Blanka's spinning attack — switch to another character already."
posted by RogerB at 1:33 PM on February 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

I like wummy.

I still use drebnar whenever I can, which is admittedly not often.
posted by JHarris at 1:53 PM on February 10, 2014

For reasons I don't even remember, my ex and I called filtered water "wadoo".

We also termed anyone who was driving too slowly to be "making slow", and that eventually encompassed any form of dawdling.

A friend of mine and some of his college buddies used the term "seltzvinyetzvar" for the seam up the middle of a man's scrotum. I don't know if they made it up or borrowed it from yet another source.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 1:54 PM on February 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

My wife and I regularly scream ITMIPITW (It Mee Pit Eww) - often in traffic - especially when the kids are in the car and we're cut off by somebody who cuts us off while reading the paper and putting on makeup or similar. It works in lines at store registers and such as well. It's a noun always used to describe a person.

I'm The Most Important Person In The World.

It's great because you can say it right at someone and that have no idea what you're saying.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 1:57 PM on February 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

In my high school, some friends of mine started a trend of calling that mullet hair style that was in vogue in the early 90s the "ayshee-brayshee" (a sort of mangled, mispronunciation of "Achy Breaky," as in "Don't break my heart, my achy breaky heart"). It caught on a bit beyond our immediate social circle in high school and I still find myself using it at home sometimes with my wife, who also uses it occasionally. Wonder if that would count...
posted by saulgoodman at 2:10 PM on February 10, 2014

I know someone who calls the TV remote the "fliffer-floffer".
posted by Prince Lazy I at 2:21 PM on February 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

No the remote is definitely the "memote".
posted by Brocktoon at 3:36 PM on February 10, 2014

In my house, the remote is usually called "Where the *&%$ is that thing??"
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:56 PM on February 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

My friends and I have a name for the miracle fabric made from polyethylene terephthalate (aka polar fleece): fuzzois, pronounced "fuzzwa."

Fuzzois is a charming and useful word, and I encourage you to start using it.
posted by ottereroticist at 4:05 PM on February 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

Whoops, looks like I jumped the whickeydo.
Which was the style, at the time.

Unfifar seems to be making the rounds since the kids can't mimic my "unfuck yourself" habit. But most patois seem to evolve that way. Steath swear.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:19 PM on February 10, 2014

our family has the verb 'to skunt,' which roughly means 'to scrape off the first layer' and not in a pleasant fashion. If you have a scrape that took off the skin, but isn't bleeding red, you've skunted yourself. Also works for paint on boats: The keel skunted across the bottom until we hit deeper water.

my father also used to affectionately refer to me as squamous and squadmocker (perhaps squadmacher?) when I was being patently ridiculous. They were roughly interchangeable nouns and (I thought) both invented, but I came across this entry when playing Dictionary once. I did have a thing for dinosaurs when I was young, maybe that's the connection. Still no idea what squadmocker might be. While my parents were careful never to swear around me, I always took them to mean something endearing and exasperated, like 'you adorable little shit.'
posted by cult_url_bias at 11:55 PM on February 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Squamous, meaning scaly, is of particular entertainment to Lovecraft fans, since it has a reputation as being one of his words, like Cyclopean, and gibbous. ("They danced horribly when the moon was gibbous," from "The Doom That Came To Sarnath.")
posted by JHarris at 12:33 AM on February 11, 2014

I do this so often with my husband that we often end up with a glut of once-used made up words filling up the hallways in our house.

When I can't recall the word for something due to brain farts or exhaustion, I will say the closest word I can think of to describe a thing. The broom might become the sweepy-sweeper, or the remote the changey-changer. Once when he tickled me and I held my iPad I said, "No, I'll drop my 'spensive!" My iPad was expensive at the time we got it, after all.

My bottom parts have been referred to as my hootie and blowfish. When I see someone (typically famous) who has had way too many plastic surgeries, I say they've been surgered to death or plastified.

My son once overheard me saying testicular and when he asked what it meant, in a complete lack of any maturity or common sense, I told him it meant awesome. The daycare provider called me the next day, laughing, asking about it, so I had to explain myself and tell him the truth later that night. My son had gone around all day telling people how testicular they were. Not a made up word, but related, I suppose.
posted by routergirl at 10:02 AM on February 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

"cargument " - an argument whch occurs in a car , is typically around travel/directions decisions.

eg "yeah it was ok , but we had a huge cargument on the way back"
posted by burr1545 at 12:24 PM on February 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I got a drawing! I sent the word to her yesterday after reading this thread, and apparently she loved it because the drawing was up today. (Previously on MeFi)

(The hometown is actually my mother's because that's where the word originated; I do not actually live in NJ.)
posted by dlugoczaj at 1:35 PM on February 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

My husband is a native Spanish speaker, and when I was learning Spanish from him years ago I picked up a lot of words that I thought were real, but subsequently learned were ones he had made up. It has taken me a long time to weed them out of my vocabulary, as they are not so easily unlearned. "Fli-fli" for a spray bottle and "núgales" for hugs are two that spring to mind.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 1:41 PM on February 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I love "fli-fli"--good onomatopoeia. (Similarly, my family picked up "fffft"--whipped cream in a can--from a friend and her family.)
posted by dlugoczaj at 1:48 PM on February 11, 2014

mrsgoat and I have at least two (well, one and one not so much a made up word, but a re-purpose)

"Furbsday" - the day between Thursday and Friday, when you feel all out of sorts. Like, not a real day, when your best bet would be to stay in bed and watch matches. Which brings me to:

"Matches" - British dramas. Taken from the Eddie Izzard bit. ("What is it Sebastian? I'm arranging matches.")
posted by mrgoat at 6:36 PM on February 11, 2014

Dlugoczaj, when I was growing up, we called that a doot-da-doo.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 9:01 PM on February 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Any sort of cardboard tube is called a "toot-toot" after the sound you will make when you hold it to your lips. Whenever we find a good one, my mom gets is as a gift for her birthday or Christmas.

My partner helped me on a frantic search for a particularly weirdly shaped one I found on vacation and subsequently lost. I think the number of times we were able to angrily say "toot-toot" to one another without noticing what we were saying proves that it's a real word.
posted by MsDaniB at 10:56 PM on February 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I see ericbop's "yamb" got an illustration too! Well done.
posted by Kabanos at 8:07 AM on February 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

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