Headbloom Blog

Gadgets and do-hickeys:
Things you don’t know the names of

In English, as in other languages, there are technical words for items that the average person does not know the name. This is because every area of life—auto mechanics, medicine, architecture, barbering, or computers, for example—have more details than we non-specialists can handle. In short, it takes an expert to identify and label these specialized concepts.

When we don’t know what to call something in English, we use a word that means “it’s a thing, but I don’t know the name for it.” Here is a list of commonly used words for unknown objects. Note: items 4-12 are informal and used primarily in speech or personal email.
1. gadget – a small mechanical or electronic device or appliance
2. widget – name for an unspecified manufactured device [economics discussion]
3. device – a small mechanical or electronic sounds more educated
4. gizmo – tool or device [informal]
5. thingamabob – some kind of thing [informal]
6. thingamajig – some kind of thing [informal]
7. thingy – some kind of thing [informal]
8. do-hickey – tool or device [informal]
9. doodad – tool or device [informal]
10. doojigger – tool or device [informal]
11. whatchamacallit – tool or device (from the phrase “what[ever] you may call it” ) [informal]
12. whatsis – an unknown thing (from the question “What’s this?” ) [informal]
13. contraption – unknown device or machine (larger than the above items)

For fun, try to guess the meanings of the following list of whatchamacallits. Match these ten words with their definitions. (Four of them are pictured below.)

1. fourchette
2. lemniscate
3. muntin
4. glabella
5. tittle
6. lunule
7. punt
8. aglet
9. ferrule
10. philtrum

___ a. the reinforcement at the end of a shoelace
___ b. the strip of fabric for the sides of the fingers of a glove
___ c. crescent-shaped marking (e.g., at the base of a fingernail)
___ d. the vertical groove above the upper lip
___ e. a strip separating panes of glass in a window sash
___ f. the dot over the letter i or j
___ g. an indentation at the bottom of a molded glass bottle
___ h. the infinity symbol, a sideways figure-eight
___ i. the space of the forehead between the eyebrows
___ j. the protective point on the far end of an umbrella

image image
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ANSWERS:
1-b, 2-h, 3-e, 4-i, 5-f, 6-c, 7-g, 8-a, 9-j, 10-d

For images, go to the Merriam-Webster site



Alan Headbloom