Six Splendiferous Words Added to the OED as Roald Dahl Turns 100


You can now look up “oompa loompa” in the Oxford English Dictionary.

Every three months, editors at the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) unveil a list of new words to be added to their dictionary. The latest list was especially scrumdiddlyumptious. In honor of Roald Dahl’s hundredth birthday, the OED added six words created or popularized by the beloved children’s author. Here’s a look.

This word refers to Dahl’s writing—which is “typically characterized by eccentric plots, villainous or loathsome adult characters, and gruesome or black humour,” notes the OED. The literary magazine Books Ireland first used the word in 1983.

Golden Ticket
The term “golden ticket” dates back to 1801, according to the OED, but the classic movie, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), and its endearing song, “I’ve Got a Golden Ticket,” ensured that the phrase went mainstream.

Human Bean
Human bean is the mispronunciation of human being (and brings to mind Dr. Suess’s lovely play on “roast beast” in How the Grinch Stole Christmas). As the giant in The BFG said, “We is having an interesting babblement about the taste of the human bean. The human bean is not a vegetable.”

Oompa Loompa
Think small orange men with green hair and dungarees, singing a very catchy tune. Even though the word is just now debuting in the dictionary, it’s been popular since 1971, when you-know-which-movie came out starring Gene Wilder.

The OED’s take: “Extremely scrumptious; excellent, splendid; (esp. of food) delicious.” Although it originally appeared in 1942’s American Thesaurus of Slang, scrumdiddlyumptious became a household word after the release of The BFG: “Every human bean is diddly and different. Some is scrumdiddlyumptious and some is uckyslush.”

Witching Hour
Shakespeare gave us witching time, but Dahl came up with witching hour. The BFG defines witching hour as “a special moment in the middle of the night when every child and every grown-up was in a deep deep sleep, and all the dark things came out from hiding and had the world to themselves.”

If that’s not enough Roald Dahl for you, check out the OED’s revisions to these four Dahlesque words:

  • Frightsome
  • Gremlin
  • Scrumptious
  • Splendiferous


Post based on Quartz, Sept. 12, 2016.