12

I checked some dictionaries and found out the following words to be used for objects whose names are forgotten:

whatsis, whatchamacallit, thingummy, dohickey, dojigger, doodad, doohickey, hickey, gizmo, gismo, gubbins, thingamabob, thingumabob, thingmabob, thingamajig, thingumajig, thingmajig.

Which of these words are really used in colloquial cases? What colloquial word do native English speakers use when they don't remember a word at that moment but they still want to use a word instead of it?

  • 1
    There is no single word and no one will be able to list them all. I suggest you rephrase the question otherwise this will remain 'not a real question'. – Unreason Nov 24 '11 at 14:42
8

I have used or heard almost all of those words used in the context of tip of the tongue name replacement.

The three I've not heard in that context are gubbins, which I have heard as a reference to a person, much the same as muggins:

And who do you think will have to clear up this mess? Gubbins, here.

hickey, which I've only heard with respect to love bites, and I've not heard dojigger at all.

One that I think is missing from that list is hoojamaflip.

I think the most used would be whatsit and thingamabob. Another alternative is just plain thing.

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    "Gubbins" in UK English means 'stuff', but never the same as 'Muggins' (self-deprecating term for 'myself') – JBRWilkinson Nov 24 '11 at 19:07
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Many of these are commonly used, though some have specific contexts.

I often hear "Whatchamacallit" in many different contexts, while "thingummy," "dohickey," "doodad," "doohickey," "thingamabob," "thingumabob" and "thingamajig" usually relate to objects such as small parts with technical names. However you would not hear them used to describe a concept or idea.

"Gizmo" is used for mechanical, electrical or technological devices which either lack a name or the name can't be recalled. I've never heard "whatsis," "dojigger" or "hickey" used to fill in for a missing word, though they may very well be dialect-dependent.

5

I think the answer is going to be dialect-related and whatever is used within someone's family. I usually use thingamabob or thingamajig. For a person, I very rudely will say what's her face or what's his name. I believe very term that you listed American, not British, English. I was raised in the midwest (Great Lakes region).

4

I use the word widget for this, although it since it was coined it has acquired a special meaning in programming.

Also useful might be underhang overarm pin and upper frupplebolt, although these latter are more often used for imaginary parts of engines than for things one has forgotten the name of.

3

We use 'doovidadgets' and 'thingamies' in Australia, don't know if this is used elsewhere though.

3

I've heard whatchamacallit, whatsit, thingummy, thingamabob, and thingamajig.

I would say that a doodad is a tchotchke, and not a whatchamacallit. A gizmo is some kind of mechanical device (although it's often used for one whose name you don't remember).

2

Reading George Macdonald Fraser's war memoir Quartered Safe Out Here, I learn that the British army in Burma used the word isker or iskermoffit for this; discussing the Projector, Infantry, Anti-Tank, his new commanding officer explains:

Bloody marvellous! Look at this, Jones - breathe on it and reach for your harp! Right, corporal, let's recap - this little isker pierces the target and all the good news rushes through, causing alarm and despondency to those on the other side? Great - woomf!

In the glossary it is explained as the Arabic for thing, but the term doesn't appear to have made it online, nor is it present in Green's Dictionary of Slang.

protected by Community Nov 30 '15 at 17:00

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