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Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary

dahl-dictionaryExunckly. Frobscottle. Geraneous Giraffe. Wonka bar.

The Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary (compiled by lexicographer Susan Rennie; Oxford University Press, September 2016) is “an extra-usual dictionary” (extra-usual, of course, meaning “extraordinarily large or extraordinarily powerful — or both, in the case of the BFG’s ears”). It includes everyday words related in some way to Roald Dahl’s gloriumptious stories and poems for kids. But it also includes terms you won’t find in most dictionaries. When a word appears in blue, that means it’s a Dahl invention. And Dahl was inventive.

Rumpledumpus. Skillywiggler. Uckyslush. Whizzpopping.

Although this is not a standard dictionary, it’s not a bad place to find out how to use one. Start on the “How to use this dictionary” spread for some tips on using typical dictionary features — guide words, parts of speech, synonyms — and less typical ones, like “ringbelling rhymes” and “gobblefunking with words.” To gobblefunk is, of course, to “play around with,” and seems to be used most often to refer to playing with words. (The BFG — Big Friendly Giant, for the uninitiated — does it a lot.) Throughout the dictionary, there are sidebars dedicated to specific types of gobblefunking. “When the BFG says bellypopper instead of helicopter,” for instance, “he is using a malapropism.”

Some of the words are accompanied by “sparky synonyms,” “Look it up!” suggestions (“For some other ways that people nibble, see eat”), and “Did you know?” facts (“When he invented the word pigwinkle, Roald Dahl may have been thinking of pignut, which is a sweet-tasting root vegetable.”) There are admonitions not to be biffsquiggled (“confused or puzzled”) by real or invented words that sound similar, like cattypiddler (“a wild creature, perhaps a kind of big cat”) and cattlepiddler (“the BFG’s name for a caterpillar”). There are also footnotes covering all sorts of ground. One says, for instance, “In North America, crisps are called potato chips.” (Oxford University Press — like Dahl himself — is British.)

Example sentences are all drawn from Dahl’s writing, and Quentin Blake’s illustrations from Dahl’s books appear throughout. Although this might be overwhelming as an introduction to Dahl’s books, it’s a great way for an established fan to spend time in the scrumdiddlyumptious space that is his world.

Bonus points if you like to gobblefunk.

Shoshana Flax About Shoshana Flax

Shoshana Flax, assistant editor for The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons College. She is a member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award committee.



  1. I’m pretty sure I gobblefunk every day.

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