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Friday, February 13, 2015



- When we don't know what to call something.

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Have you ever noticed how we tend to use certain words when we either don't know the proper name for something or we simply forget what to call it? I don't know about other languages, but the English language is full of such words, for example:

* Thingee - this is an expression typically used either by young children or older people too reserved to curse. People using this word typically point at the object of their attention when saying "thingee," both young and old.

* Thingamajig - is an old expression you still hear every now and then. It's normally used to ask for something; e.g., "Can you hand me that thingamajig?"

* Thingamabob - an even older variation.

* Whatchamacallit - I find this is used more in regards to a person's title or profession; e.g., "Joe is a professional whatchamacallit." (I always wondered what P.W. stood for).

* Whatsajig - I think this is a southern variance of whatchamacallit.

* Schravits - this is an unusual one. I first heard it from a friend from the Midwest who primarily uses it to describe a tool or instrument; e.g., "Hand me the schravits will you?"

* Doohickie - although this can be applied to just about anything, it is more commonly used in connection with a blemish or insect bite; e.g., "Boy, that's an ugly doohickie you have on your arm there."

These are words that have existed for many years and I think we're all guilty of using them now and then. This usually comes about when we are tired or lazy and don't want to engage the brain. You also see it when we're too preoccupied with something else and don't want to waste time searching for the correct expression.

My father would use such words for years, particularly at the dinner table, where he would ask for this or that. As he got older though, I noticed he stopped trying to ask for anything verbally and, instead, would just point at it with his finger, which we would instinctively know what he wanted, almost telepathically. It was quite amusing to watch, a bit rude, but amusing nonetheless. There's a word that describes this phenomenon, I believe it's called a .....

Originally Published: December 29, 2009

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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at

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