One hundred years ago, a man named Roald Dahl came into the world. Born in Wales in 1916, he ascended to literary fame in the 1940s, producing some of the most recognizable children’s literature of our time: Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Witches, James and the Giant Peach, The BFG.
Dahl blended fantasy, horror and folklore into books that enchanted readers, not simply because his stories were fantastical tales of candy factories and witches and telekinesis, but because he often made heroes of unlikely children. He crafted funny and violent narratives told from the perspective of girls and boys, giving orphans and poor kids and bullied students the platform to best mythical creatures and wayward adults. It’s no surprise that many of his books were adapted into films that stretched his legacy into the 21st century ― every title above has made its way to the silver screen; even the 1984 classic “Gremlins” is said to be partly inspired by a story he wrote in 1942.
Like authors before him ― William Shakespeare, Lewis Carroll, Dr. Seuss ― Dahl’s literature is particularly unique because it’s based on a language without boundaries. His characters speak in alliteration, onomatopoeia, anagrams and portmanteaus, choosing to say “churgle” instead of “laugh” or “bish” instead of “ruin.” Terms like “zozimus” define a thing (in this case, the stuff dreams are made of) so magical yet based in reality, that his tendency to create entire sentences in Dahlian gibberish only elevated his characters’ ability to communicate complex concepts like fear and hate.
In honor of his centennial birthday, Oxford University Press has packaged the words utterly distinct to Dahl’s universes, whether they’re familiar terms imbued with new meaning or entirely made-up phrases originating in the belly of a giant. The Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary, compiled by Dr. Susan Rennie, is both an unconventional tool for teaching kids how to read and an expansive survey of one man’s contribution to literary history.
From “argy” to “zozimus,” these are just 50 of the magnificent expressions the late, great author left behind:
1. Argy (verb): If giants or human beans or cattlerpiddlers are argying, they are having an argument.
“One of the biggest chatbags is the cattlepiddlers ... They is argying all the time about who is going to be the prettiest butterfly.” -The BFG
2. Biffsquiggled (adjective): If you feel biffsquiggled, you are confused or puzzled.
“’You must not be giving up so easy,’ the BFG said calmly. ‘The first titchy bobsticle you meet and you begin shouting you is biffsquiggled.’” -The BFG
3. Bibble (verb): When something bibbles, it makes a soft gurgling sound.
“All around them lay the vast black ocean, deep and hungry. Little waves were bibbling against the side of the peach.” -James and the Giant Peach
4. Bish (verb): If you bish something, you ruin it.
“’This is it!’ he whispered to himself under his breath. ‘The greatest moment of my life is coming up now! I mustn’t bish it. I mustn’t bosh it! I must keep very calm.’” -Esio Trot
5. Bundongle (noun): A bundongle is something that contains only air.
“I thought all human beans is full of brains, but your head is emptier than a bundongle.” -The BFG
6. Catasterous (adjective): A catasterous situation is very bad indeed, and a catasterous disastrophe is the worst of all.
“’Catasterous!’ cried the BFG. ‘Upgoing bubbles is a catasterous disastrophe!’” -The BFG
7. Churgle (verb): When you churgle, you gurgle with laughter.
“The fact that it was none other than Boggis’s chickens they were going to eat made them churgle with laughter every time they thought of it.” -Fantastic Mr. Fox
8. Crodsquinkled (adjective): If a giant is crodsquinkled, he is in a hopeless situation.
“’I is slopgroggled!’ squakwed the Gizzardgulper. ‘I is crodsquinkled!’ yowled the Bloodletter.” -The BFG
9. Daddle (verb): If you daddle, you run very fast.
“So start to run! Oh, skid and daddle / Through the slubber slush and sossel! / Skip jump hop and try to skaddle! / All the grobes are on the roam!” -Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator
10. Darksome (adjective): Dark and murky.
“’This one is a nasty fierce bogrotting nightmare ... I would be hating to get this one inside me on a darksome night.’ the BFG said.” -The BFG
11. Diddly (adjective): Individual or distinct.
“Every human bean is diddly and different. Some is scrumdiddlyumptious and some is uckyslush.” -The BFG
12. Dispunge (verb): If you dispunge something, you hate or loathe it.
“’Here is the repulsant snozzcumber!’ cried the BFG, waving it about. ‘I squoggle it! I mispise it! I dispunge it!’” -The BFG
13. Dreadly (adjective): A dreadly creature, such as the dreadly vindscreen-viper, is feared because it is so dreadly.
“’Save our souls!’ bellowed the Fleshlumpeater. ‘Sound the crumpets! ... The teeth of the dreadly viper is still sticking into me!’” -The BFG
14. Exunckly (adverb): If you say “exunckly” to someone, you are agreeing with what they have just said.
“It’s a funny thought,’ Sophie said. ‘Exunckly,’ the BFG said.” -The BFG
15. Flavory-savory (adjective): Sweet and delicious, as fresh walnuts taste to monkeys.
“A walnut fresh from the tree is scrumptious-galumptious, so flavory-savory, so sweet to eat that it makes me all wobbly just thinking about it.”-The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me
16. Fizzwiggler (noun): A fizzwiggler is someone who is mean and cruel. The BFG thinks that Mrs. Clonkers is a real fizzwiggler because she is cruel to the children in the norphanage.
“’The filthy old fizzwiggler!’ shouted the BFG. ‘That is the horridest thing I is hearing for years!’” -The BFG
17. Fluckgungled (adjective): See “crodsquinkled.”
“’I is gunzleswiped!’ shouted the Meatdripper. ‘I is fluckgungled!’ screamed the Maidmasher.” -The BFG
18. Frumpet (noun): If you call someone a frumpet (not that you would), you mean that they are old and unattractive.
“Mrs. Twit ... suddenly called out at the top of her voice, ‘Here I come, you grizzly old grunion! You rotten old turnip! You filthy old frumpet!’” -The Twits
19. Giganticus (adjective): Grand and spectacular.
“’So now!’ barked the Grand High Witch. ‘So now I am having a plan! I am having a giganticus plan for getting rrrid of every single child in the whole of Inkland!’” -The Witches
20. Glimp (noun): A very quick glimpse or peek.
“I is showing you now who is going to eat you up if they is ever catching even one tiny glimp of you.” -The BFG
21. Gloomness (noun): Darkness or nighttime.
“At the witchy hour of gloomness, / All the grobes come oozing home.” -Charlie and the Great Elevator
22. Gollup (noun): A big gulp or swallow.
“I’ll bet if you saw a fat juicy little child paddling in the water over there at this very moment, you’d gulp him up in one gollup!” -The Enourmous Crocodile
23. Grinksludging (adjective): A grinksludging dream is one that is no fun at all.
“If I is giving a girl’s dream to a boy ... the boy would be waking up and thinking what a rotbungling grinksludging old dream that was.” -The BFG
24. Grunch (verb): When a Gruncher grunches, it easts its food (usually Minpins) noisily by grinding and crunching.
“The one waiting for you down there is the fearsome Gruncher, the Red-Hot Smoke-Belching Gruncher. He grunches up everything in the forest.” -The Minpins
25. Grunion (noun): A very mean or grumpy person.
“George ... was especially tired of having to live in the same house as that grizzly old grunion of a Grandma.” -George’s Marvellous Medicine
26. Horrigust (adjective): Something horrigust is truly horrible and disgusting.
“You is saying it is grizzling and horrigust for giants to be eating human beans, right or left?” -The BFG
27. Inky-booky (adjective): An inky-booky taste is the taste you get from chewing a piece of paper with writing on it. School-chiddlers taste like this to giants, perhaps because they read more than giants do.
“I is very fond indeed of English school-chiddlers. They has a nice inky-booky flavour.” -The BFG
28. Jumpsy (adjective): If you feel jumpsy, you feel anxious and the slightest thing will make you jump.
“’I is nervous myself,’ the BFG whispered. ‘I always gets as jumpsy as a joghopper when the Fleshlumpeating Giant is around.’” -The BFG
29. Lickswishy (adjective): A lickswishy taste or flavor is gloriously delicious.
“’I knows where there is a bagglebox for boys!’ shouted the Gizzardgulper. ‘All I has to do is reach in and grab myself a handful! English boys is tasting extra lickswishy.’” -The BFG
30. Mideous (adjective): A mideous place is horrible and nasty (but grobes still love living there).
“In the quelchy quaggy sogmire, / In the mashy mideous harshland...” -Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator
31. Mintick (noun): A minute.
“Now hang on a mintick.” -The BFG
32. Natterbox (noun): A natterbox is someone who cannot stop talking, usually about nothing in particular.
“Spiders is also talking a great deal. You might not be thinking it, but spiders is the most tremendous natterboxes.” -The BFG
33. Notmucher (noun): Someone who doesn’t do very much, or will never amount to much.
“’The Queen of England,’ Sophie said. ‘You can’t call her a squifflerotter or a grinksludger ... You can’t call her a squeakpip or a notmucher either.’” -The BFG
34. Pibbling (adjective): Very small and unimportant.
“You is not fit to be a giant! You is a squinky little squiddler! You is a pibbling little pitsqueak.” -The BFG
35. Plexicated (adjective): If something is plexicated, it is complicated and difficult to do or make.
“’Stay there please,’ he said, ‘and no chittering. I is needing to listen only to silence when I is mixing up such a knotty plexicated dream as this.’” -The BFG
36. Plussy (adjective): Someone who is plussy is full of life and energy. Being a plussy is the opposite of being a Minus.
“She’s a Minus no longer! She’s a lovely Plus! She’s as plussy as plussy can be!” -Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator
37. Razztwizzler (noun): Something wonderfully exciting or enjoyable.
“I must say it’s quite an experience,’ Sophie said. ‘It’s a razztwizzler,’ the BFG said. ‘It’s gloriumptious.’” -The BFG
38. Re-inscorched (adjective): Metal that is re-inscorched has been toughened to make it extra strong.
“’It’s a steel rope,’ said Mr. Wonka. ‘It’s made of re-inscorched steel. If they try to bite through that their teeth will splinter like spillikins.’” -Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator
39. Ringbeller (noun): A ringbeller is a really splendid dream, the kind that makes you wake up smiling and happy.
“’What a funny dream,’ Sophie said. ‘It’s a ringbeller,’ the BFG said. ‘It’s whoppsy.’” -The BFG
40. Rommytot (noun): If someone talks rommytot, they are talking nonsense.
“’Human beans is juicier,’ the Bloodletter said. ‘You is talking rommytot,’ the BFG said, growing braver by the second.” -The BFG
41. Scrotty (adjective): If you feel scrotty, you feel sad and gloomy.
“Whenever I is feeling a bit scrotty,’ the BFG said, ‘a few gollops of frobscottle is always making me hopscotchy.’” -The BFG
42. Shootle (verb): Shootling means shooting with guns, which grown-ups with no common sense do to each other.
“’But human beans is squishing each other all the time,’ the BFG said. ‘They is shootling guns and going up in aerioplanes to drop their bombs on each other’s heads every week.’” -The BFG
43. Sickable (adjective): Something that is sickable looks or tastes so vile that it makes you feel instantly sick.
“’It’s disgusterous!’ the BFG gurgled. ‘It’s sickable! It’s rotsome! It’s maggotwise! Try it yourself, this foulsome snozzcumber!’” -The BFG
44. Squishous (adjective): Something squishous is very easy to squish, like a boneless Knid.
“’Oh you Knid, you are vile and vermicious,’ cried Mr Wonka. ‘You are slimy and soggy and squishous!’” -Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator
45. Suspichy (adjective): If a giant is suspichy, he is suspicious about something.
“The Fleshlumpeater turned and started at the BFG. ‘What is you doing here with all these grotty twiglets!’ he bellowed. ‘You is making me very suspichy.’” -The BFG
46. Telly-telly bunkum box (noun): A television.
“’If you do go back, you will be telling the world,’ said the BFG, ‘most likely on the telly-telly bunkum box and the radio squeaker.’” -The BFG
47. Vermicious (adjective): Something vermicious is vicious and nasty, just like a Knid.
“’It’s worse than that!’ cried the Chief of Police. ‘It’s a vermicious Knid! Oh, just look at its vermicious gruesome face!’” -James and the Giant Peach
48. Whiffsy (adjective): Something whiffsy is always moving.
“’Giants is never dying,’ the BFG answered ... ‘Mostly us giants is simply going on and on like whiffsy time-twiddlers.’” -The BFG
49. Whunking (adjective): Big and heavy.
“So what you soldiers has to do is to creep up to the giants while they is still in the Land of Noddy and tie their arms and legs with mighty ropes and whunking chains.” -The BFG
50. Zozimus (noun): Zozimus is what dreams are made of. The BFG whisks zozimus with an eggbeater until it forms bubbles just like soapy water.
“Dreams is not like human beans or animals. They has no brains. They is made of zozimus.” -The BFG