P. G. Wodehouse invented some fantastically expressive words. He is widely regarded as a master of the English language – even being compared to Shakespeare – and some of his coinages have been honoured with an entry in the Oxford English Dictionary. The ten words that follow all appear to have been coined by Wodehouse and deserve, we think, to gain wider currency. Let’s make it so!
Crispish. An adjective meaning ‘somewhat crisp’, from the 1930 novel Very Good, Jeeves: ‘When not pleased Aunt Dahlia, having spent most of her youth in the hunting-field, has a crispish way of expressing herself.’
Gruntled. An adjective meaning ‘satisfied’ or ‘contented’, coined by Wodehouse as the antonym to ‘disgruntled’ in The Code of the Woosters (1938): ‘He spoke with a certain what-is-it in his voice, and I could see that, if not actually disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled.’
Oojah-cum-spiff. Meaning ‘all right’ or ‘fine’, this also appeared in the 1930 novel Very Good, Jeeves, possibly as an alteration of ‘oojah-capivvy’, an Indian or Persian expression which is itself of uncertain origin: ‘”All you have to do,” I said, “is to carry on here for a few weeks more, and everything will be oojah-cum-spiff.”‘
Persp. Short for ‘perspiration’, this first appeared in The Inimitable Jeeves (1923): ‘The good old persp. was bedewing my forehead by this time in a pretty lavish manner.’
Plobby. This one doesn’t actually have its own entry in the OED – at least, not yet. But Paul Dickson lists it in his book Authorisms, so we felt we’d include it here, as it’s a wonderfully descriptive word. What it describes is the sound of a pig eating (though ‘pig’ might also be meant metaphorically to denote a greedy person with bad table manners, we suspect). It appears in Blandings Castle (1935): ‘A sort of gulpy, gurgly, plobby, squishy, wofflesome sound, like a thousand eager men drinking soup in a foreign restaurant.’ ‘Wofflesome’ is also rather splendid.
Plonk. Rather than being a slang term for wine, this beautifully onomatopoeic word refers to ‘a dull thudding sound’. It appears in one of Wodehouse’s very early stories, in Tales of St. Austin’s (1903): ‘There was a beautiful, musical plonk, and the ball soared to the very opposite quarter of the field.’
Pottiness. Coined in the 1933 Blandings novel Heavy Weather, this is (as you may have guessed) the noun form of the adjective ‘potty’, meaning slightly silly or crazy: ‘It was not primarily his pottiness that led him to steal the Empress.’
Snooter. This word has three citations in its entry in the OED, but they’re all taken from works by Wodehouse; the entry includes the parenthesis ‘Only in P. G. Wodehouse.’ It is a verb meaning to ‘harass’ or to ‘snub’: Wodehouse uses it in both senses. It first appears in The Inimitable Jeeves.
Whiffled. An adjective, from the 1927 novel Meet Mr Mulliner, this means ‘drunk’ or ‘intoxicated’. The word appears in a list of synonyms for ‘drunk’: ‘Intoxicated? The word did not express it by a mile. He was oiled, boiled, fried … whiffled, sozzled, and blotto.’
Zing. This interjection represents ‘the sudden advent of a new situation or emotion’, as the OED puts it. It appears in the 1919 book Damsel in Distress: ‘The generous blood of the Belphers boiled over, and then—zing. They jerked him off to Vine Street.’
If you enjoyed these Wodehousian words, check out our interesting facts about words and language.
Image: P. G. Wodehouse (author unknown, 1904), Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
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Beautiful! I love Wodehouse!
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PG Wodehouse forever!
To compare PG with Shakespeare is like comparing Enid Blyton to Tolstoy! ;-)
Well i think they’re two completely different types of writers and belonged to two entirely different genres of literature. Wodehouse was a master humorist and Shakespeare’s plays are.. , well they are beyond par. To compare them in any capacity would be unfair
I have never heard of some of these words. Gruntled? Plobby? Oojah-cum-spiff?
The “gruntled” quote is a classic!
Unlike Shakespeare not many of these words are in use nowadays!
Absolutely splendid! I adore Wodehouse. Thanks for this info. :)
Good stuff, Interesting Literature. Keep it up! (Or possibly: ‘pip pip!’)
Reblogged this on Kentucky Mountain Girl News and commented:
KMGN: Words are my business as it is with any writer and this article was entertaining, a bit amusing, and actually left me wondering about where some other words came from. What do you think?
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Thank you, I love P G Wodehouse:)
Delightful look at Wodehouse’s words.