I was thinking of there being very silly sounding words. The first one that popped to mind was "discombobulated"... and then that was it.

Is it just me, or are silly words not really around anymore? I mean, I found some in Roald Dahl's books (particularly in his language, Gobblefunk) but those aren't really words (I was really looking for the word "bumfuzzled" in there... ok, silly words can remain silly, but let's not make this question silly.)

Why does such a word like "discombobulate" continue to be used today?

Look, it has become a joke to use it, really, especially at school. But perhaps there are other silly words like it, and I just don't know of them. However this question is mainly focused on the word "discombobulate" and not so much on others, though you are welcome to comment some silly words like this you might know, if you want.

Two days ago, I asked my English teacher about any silly words she knew, and she replied with "extramundane". I don't think the word sounds too silly; as a matter of fact, it's meaning is pretty cool. But hey, I think talking about this word is rather extraneous ;)

Credit to this question for some background knowledge on "discombobulate" :D

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    New made-up word of the day! Thinkambulist noun: 1. one who walks around thinking about stuff. – Mr Pie Feb 16 '19 at 15:26
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    Why does any word stick around? I’m afraid there’s no way to answer this authoritatively, other than by noting that they stick around because people continue to use them… – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 16 '19 at 16:20
  • @JanusBahsJacquet "They stick around because people continue to use them…" Are you saying that people continue to use them, because people continue to use them? Words come and go because of convenience: for example, people say "sleepwalker" and not noctambulist anymore (though some experts of somnology say "somnambulist" which means the same thing, but that's rare); people say "tears" instead of eyewater (in fact, that's not even considered a word by this very comment); "yesteryear" is not said much, especially yesternight. These rare words have but one thing in common: they are long ;) – Mr Pie Feb 16 '19 at 16:42
  • @JanusBahsJacquet so my question is why the word "discombobulated" is an exception :P – Mr Pie Feb 16 '19 at 16:43
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    Yes, I’m saying people continue to use words because they continue to use them. I wouldn’t call somnambulist rare, though sleepwalker is definitely more common. How long a word is can perhaps play a role in which of two words vying for the same spot wins out, but it is not a reliable factor. For example, we now say literature rather than writ, despite the latter being shorter; but in Icelandic they still say rit. It is generally not possible to give any objective reason for why a word falls out of use. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 16 '19 at 16:50

Yes, the term is still used, and its usage has apparently increased in recent decades. Hard to say why people like it.

Ngram: discombobulate, discombobulated.


When it first appeared in the U.S. in the early 1800s, discombobulate was just a playful, rootless coinage conveying a sense of confusion. It was probably inspired by similar words like discomfit and discompose, but the –bobulate part has no etymological origin. It is this nonsense quality that gives the word its meaning—i.e., to throw into a state of confusion. To be discombobulated is to be thoroughly befuddled.

Discombobulate is still a light word and might be out of place in more formal contexts, but it does turn up fairly often in edited publications

(The Grammarist)

Discombobulate v.:

also discombobligate, discombobolate, discomfoozle, discomfuddle, discumboblificate, discumfuddle.

(a nonsense word, playing on SE discomfit and/or discompose + ? bobbery n.)

  • 1871 [US] Yale Lit. Mag. June 402: He was tossed up and down in the cruel blanket, until brains and bowels were both ‘discombobulated’.

(Green’s Dictionary of Slang)

  • Just to point out, "discomfoozle" probably comes from the old english dumfoozle, but apart from that, thanks for the answer! :D – Mr Pie Feb 16 '19 at 16:35

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