TV Words

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Wed Dec 6 18:41:26 UTC 2006

On 12/6/06, Charles Doyle <cdoyle at> wrote:
> [Ed Keer:]
> > They say the 'ma' infix in 'saxamaphone' is from Homer on the
> > Simpsons. However, it also appears in the Dr. Seuss book The Lorax
> > in 'whispermaphone'--the thing that the Onceler uses to tell you the
> > story of the Lorax from his attic. I don't know if the Simpsons writers
> > took it specifically from there or not. But it's there.
> I assume that's the same -ma- that occurs in "thimgamajig" and
> "thingamabob"--perhaps from the similar syllable in "whatyamacallit," which
> does (or did) have semantic content as "may"?
> OED (s.v. "thingumbob") has:  "1870 M. BRIDGMAN Rob. Lynne II. v. 107
> We're going to try him for thingamobob--bigamy."  But no explanation (that I
> can discover) for -ma-/-mo-.

Note also the Popeye-ism "edumacation"/"edumacated", which dates back
to 1925 at least:

--Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

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