10 Words invented by Roald Dahl

BY Esteban Touma

13th Dec 2023 Books

4 min read

10 Words invented by Roald Dahl
In anticipation of the upcoming Wonka film release, language learning platform Babbel shares the ten most “phizz-whizzing” and “gloriumptious” “gobblefunk” words invented by Roald Dahl 
Throughout Roald Dahl’s career, he built up a lexicon of more than 500 original words, many of which successfully gained recognition in dictionaries across the world due to their popularity, usage and associations with the beloved stories from which they came.
Esteban Touma, a linguistic expert, Babbel Live teacher and stand-up comedian, sheds light on the enchanting world of “Dahlesque” language. He provides insights into Dahl's weird, wonderful and inventive vocabulary, including definitions and unique characteristics. Touma also discusses its ability to evoke sensory experiences and conjure vivid and magical imagery in the mind of the reader.
"Dahl's stories were full of puns, wordplay and clever turns of phrase, creating light-hearted humour"
~Esteban Touma
Touma comments: “Dahl’s linguistic ingenuity lies not only in his captivating storytelling but also in his masterful creation of whimsical, yet remarkably resonant, made-up words and vivid descriptions, bringing characters to life and appealing to the senses. His stories were full of puns, wordplay and clever turns of phrase, creating light-hearted humour.”
While Dahl clearly contributed to enriching the English language, he remains a controversial figure, given his alleged views on antisemitism. His works have recently come under scrutiny for some of the more outdated descriptions included within them. Much of the discussion has centred upon descriptions alluding to mental health, people’s appearances, racism and gender references.
Black and white photograph of Roald Dahl in 1954
With a focus on some of the words which are translatable into today’s versions of Roald Dahl books, Esteban looks at a selection of language that brings the reader into the world of imagination. Perhaps there’s a few in here to lookout for in the new Wonka film:

1. Golden ticket

The phrase “golden ticket” was popularised by its association with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. You may remember that this was the very ticket that granted Charlie Bucket the opportunity to meet Wonka and go to his factory. Transcending fiction, the phrase “golden ticket” has even made it into the dictionary! The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as being: “a special ticket granting the holder a valuable or exclusive prize, experience, opportunity, etc”. In common usage, the ticket is metaphorical, symbolising something that marks a lucky break.

2. Snozzberry

A “snozzberry” is a fictitious fruit depicted on Wonka’s lickable wallpaper in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It showcases Dahl's imaginative prowess, combining the humorous “snozz” with the suffix “berry” to imply a small fruit. The word is entirely made up for comic effect.

3. Snozzcumber

Coined by Dahl in The BFG, to describe a large, foul-tasting, knobbly black and white striped fictional vegetable. “Snozz”, in fact, has no specific meaning at all outside of the story.
"'Snozz' has no specific meaning at all outside of Dahl's stories"
“Snozzcumber” may sound somewhat like a cucumber, but it is most definitely not a cucumber. The clever use of syllables convey a word which embodies the reality of the unappealing vegetable.   

4. Scrumdiddlyumptious

An assortment of colourful fruits and muffins
A portmanteau combining “scrumptious”, meaning delicious or tasty, and “diddly”, meaning something insignificant or small. “Scrumdiddlyumptious” refers to food that is very scrumptious indeed! Dahl used the word “diddly” for comedic effect, as “diddly” is used to indicate the food is more significantly more delicious, rather than less! “Scrumdiddlyumptious” has found its way into informal English and can be found in some dictionaries.

5. Mike Teavee

Mike Teavee is a character in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory who wins a golden ticket. Mike is portrayed as a lazy, childish boy who is obsessed with TV and video games. His last name, “Teavee” is a play on “TV”. Fun fact: in early drafts of the novel, Mike Teavee was named “Herpes Trout”!

6. Veruca Salt

Veruca Salt is another character in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory who is portrayed as being spoiled, selfish and obnoxious. Her name is slightly more subtle than Mike Teavee’s, but still indicates her unpleasant personality.
"Veruca Salt's name is more subtle than Mike Teavee's, but still indicates her unpleasant personality"
A “verruca” is a type of wart, and “salt” appears to refer to her father’s nut business. In modern slang, “salty” is widely understood as someone who behaves in an irritable manner.

7. Childchewer

One of Dahl’s more on-the-nose names, the “Childchewer” is a giant in The BFG. Unlike the kind Big Friendly Giant, the Childchewer enjoys snatching children. In The BFG, the Childchewer’s friends include the aptly named Meatdripper, Maidmasher and Bonecruncher.

8. Inky-booky

Another word from The BFG, “inky-booky” is used to describe the flavour schoolchildren taste to the giants. The term refers to both “ink” and “books”, two things which are typically used by schoolchildren. 

9. Plussy

The words 'think positive' written in orange calligraphy
Coined in Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator and inspired by school maths, a “plussy” person is positive and lively, the opposite of a “minus” person, who is subdued and adds little to the world. A positive (or, “plussy”) person adds to the world, whereas a negative person (a “minus”) subtracts from it.

10. Trogglehumper

A “trogglehumper” is a term originating from Dahl’s 1982 novel, The BFG. It is defined as a particularly terrifying nightmare, the polar opposite of a “golden phizzwizard”, which is a wonderful dream that leaves you feeling happy.
Banner photo: Roald Dahl's invented words populate many of his books (credit: solarisgirl (Wikimedia Commons))
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