Michael Quinion editor at WORLDWIDEWORDS.ORG
Thu Jul 12 10:10:00 UTC 2001

In World Wide Words last week I included a piece on the British
Indian Army expression "doolally tap" (now just "doolally" in
Britain), meaning that someone was behaving oddly, or had gone

Several American subscribers have since written to say that
"doolally" is well known to them as a term for something whose
name one can't for the moment remember, so matching other US
words with the same meaning such as 'doofus', 'dohickey',
'doodad', and 'doojigger'.

Can anybody tell me whether the American term has been taken
from the British expression, with the sense changed to match the
others, or whether it is a native US creation which just happens
to match the British one?

And is it possible to say anything about its current usage?  My
subscribers mostly seem elderly, so it may be that the term has
gone out of use.

Michael Quinion
Editor, World Wide Words
<editor at>

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