With an estimated million or more words in the English language now, you would think that no-one would ever be fumbling for the right word to use. However, this happens all the time in everyday speech due to the demand of instantaneous recall or the lack of familiarity with the conversational topic. In UK English we have various colloquialisms to help us out of this situation.
Of course, as this is spoken English, there are no standard spellings for many of these made-up words. Even in literature, it is rare to see them in dialogue since the author has time to re-draft, edit and substitute words to propel the story. Therefore, the words below could be spelt or hyphenated in other ways, but they are all synonyms for the all-encompassing ‘thing‘, meaning an artefact, action, matter, event, issue or attribute:
- thingamy / thing-ummy
- thingamybob / thingamabob
- thingamyjig / thingamajig
- whatsitsname / whatsaname / whassaname
These may be accompanied by gestures such as clicking the fingers, as if to conjure up the correct word. In this 1942 song written by Thompson & Heneker, we hear Gracie Fields (1898-1979) not quite knowing all the technical jargon but being sure where everything goes!
(Top image: pxhere.com / CC0)