Sunday, 6 January 2008


A sniglet is defined as a "word that should be in the dictionary, but isn't". While American Rich Hall invented the word "sniglet" itself, sniglets are actually a long-running popular joke in which people make up their own humorous words to describe things or concepts that have no "official" words. Sniglets were popularized during the 1980s, on the US comedy series "Not Necessarily the News". Comedian and cast member Rich Hall had a regular segment on sniglets during each episode of the monthly series.

The Sniglets idea derives from Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams. On a holiday with British comedy producer John Lloyd, he suggested they play a game a teacher had taught him at school in which players were challenged to make up plausible word definitions for place names taken from road maps. The definitions they came up with were later incorporated into a spin-off book from Lloyd's satirical TV show "Not the Nine O'Clock News". When the format of the show was sold to America to become "Not Necessarily the News" the producers also took the made-up word definition concept, which became Sniglets. Meanwhile in 1983 Adams and Lloyd released their own book of hilarious neologisms,The Meaning of Liff, all strictly culled from names 'lying around idle on road-signs'.

However Adams's teacher would appear to have got the idea from humour writer Paul Jennings, who was certainly first to make up words derived from place-names in an essay appearing in 'The Jenguin Pennings' in 1963. He is also the coiner of the very useful word Resistentialism - a jocular theory in which inanimate objects display hostile desires towards human beings.

In our regular and frequent e-mails GB and I have coined many snigkets but now I come to write about them I can only recall a couple -

spillchucker - n. the software that should tell one whether a word is correctly spelled (spellchecker) but frequently does not.

moisty - adj. foggy and damp - as in 'it's a moisty morning'.

broekn - adj. broken broken - which is usually the way it comes out when I type it.

borrowable - adj. simply, capable of being borrowed. For some reason the word does not appear in my spillchucker or dictionary

bookary - adj. refusing to part with books (literary equivalent of mercenary)

unmissable - adj. Again this seems s straightforward word to me. It means something that cannot be missed. However, the spillchucker rejects it and offers instead omissible, amassable, admissible, immiscible, and amicable....

lotsly - adv. Another fairly obvious word from GBE - being the opposite of slightly as in "Love you lotsly, miss you muchly".

Some sniglets from the web will follow in a future article. In the meantime please feel free to contribute your own via the comments.

1 comment:

  1. Crook - n. A large black bird that given the viewing distance could be a Rook or a Crow.

    And I'm afraid you can't have moisty as that is actually in the OED: Of a season, day, etc.: having wet or damp weather; having a wet climate. Now chiefly in collocation with misty. I even have an example of it in use; "Misty Moisty Morning" is a song by Canadian family group The Barra MacNeils.



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