Tuesday marks an extra special Roald Dahl Day, as the author was born a full 100 years ago, on September 13, 1916. Dahl passed away in November 1990, but the iconic stories he created -- "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," "James and the Giant Peach," "Matilda," "The BFG" and so many others -- live on. Dahl's sparkling vocabulary brightened his tales, and our vocabulary, so much so that six of his words now reside in the prestigious Oxford English Dictionary.
The OED this month updated and revised more than 1,000 words in its latest quarterly update, paying special tribute to Dahl. In addition to six original words, the dictionary has revised listings for four more, acknowledging his work in helping make them so well-known.
There's also a newish book, the "Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary," filled with quotes from Dahl and "only really interesting words."
Dahl fans celebrate Roald Dahl Day yearly on September 13 with readings and other tributes by organizations that keep his legacy alive. What better way to fete the British author than to go word-nerd on the Dahl-speak that hit the esteemed OED? Oompa, Loompa, Doompa-dee all.
"Oompa Loompa" has changed its meaning over the years. It once meant an industrious worker, like Dahl's chocolate factory toilers, but now has a modern twist.
"Ever since the release of (the 1971 film) 'Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory,' while a person may be likened to an Oompa Loompa in stature or industriousness, such comparisons are now much more likely to allude to the Day-Glo effects of some fake tanning products," the OED reports.
Charlie Bucket's "golden ticket" (a winning ticket, or admission to a special event) made the list too, as did "scrumdiddlyumptious" (delicious) and "human bean" (you're one of them).
A particularly evocative Dahl-ism is "witching hour," which he used in "The BFG" to describe "a special moment in the middle of the night when every child and every grown-up was in a deep deep sleep, and all the dark things came out from hiding and had the world to themselves."
The dictionary also highlighted words that were already in the book but Dahl helped popularize, such as "frightsome" for scary, "scrumptious" for yummy, and "splendiferous" for splendid. Another word, "gremlin," originated as Royal Air Force slang for a lowly person, was later tweaked to refer to mechanical glitches in aircraft, and took center stage with Dahl's 1943 novel "The Gremlins," about naughty creatures who sabotage planes.
Perhaps the best tribute paid to Dahl was not a word he used, but a word describing him. "Dahlesque" is now listed as an adjective and defined as "resembling or characteristic of the works of Roald Dahl."