Book of the Week: the new whoppsy-whiffling Roald Dahl Dictionary

Book of the Week: the new whoppsy-whiffling Roald Dahl Dictionary

oxford-roald-dahl-dictionaryNot since Shakespeare has one man invented so many words. And yes, so we may not use poppyrot and wondercrump in casual conversation all that often – but we should! Roald Dahl invented a variety of words that are just simply fun to say, and now there’s a handy resource to working out what they mean.

The brand new Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary has them all, from ‘aardvark to zozimus.’ It contains literally every word Dahl ever came up with (and even quite a few he didn’t). The dictionary was compiled by Dr Susan Rennie, who keeps Dahl’s wonderful sense of humour throughout. And never fear – it’s not just a book of words. The Dahl Dictionary is also filled to the brim with pictures by long-time Dahl illustrator Quentin Blake, that help bring Dahl’s wonderfully wacky words to life.

While every single word in the dictionary (all 8,000 of them) appears in one Dahl book or another, that does not mean they’re all words he invented, as some much more common words are there too. What do words like ‘awkward’, ‘exterminate’, ‘loudspeaker’ and ‘thunder’ have to do with Dahl? You’ll have to check the dictionary to find out.

Every word has context as well, with a quote and a book reference that correspond to every entry. It’s fun to test yourself – we all know ‘Oompa Loompas’ are from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but in which book would you find a fizzlecrump? Which characters are known to eat muckleberries? Who suffers from the Dreaded Shrinks? The answers will be at the very bottom of this article (no peeking)!

It’s a fantastic resource for Dahl fans, or anyone reading Dahl’s books to a young one or teaching them in class. It also functions as a handbook of sorts, so not only can you look up words but also characters, places and more. You can check the grandparents’ names in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, all the animals from The Enormous Crocodile, even which ingredients go into the brew from The Witches.

The dictionary has been a while in the making. Dahl’s words had never been compiled like this before, and Dr Rennie, who is a professional lexicographer, (that means a person who compiles dictionaries) spent five years putting together all the entries. Dr Rennie says to the BBC that Dahl “didn’t always explain what his words meant, but children can work them out because they often sound like a word they know, and he loved using onomatopoeia.”

She has a lot of favourite Dahl words, including sizzlepan (frypan), langwitch (to a giant that means language) and Dahl’s Chickens (what the BFG calls Charles Dickens)! You can listen to Dr Rennie’s interview with the BBC here, where she goes into more fascinating detail about Dahl and language, or click here to see our list of Dahl words!

Venturing through the pages of The Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary is really a return to childhood. We can’t think of a perfect phrase to describe what fun it is to revisit the characters, stories and quotes that he created – but we’re sure Dahl would have had just the right word for it.

 

Check out the list of our all-time favourite Dahl words here!

Are you teaching Dahl’s books to your class? Download some free resources for the dictionary here.

 

Winkle (1)Knid or Vermicious knidPiggery - Jokery

 

 

Puzzle answers:

  1. A ‘fizzlecrump’ is ‘creature that can move as fast as a giant running at top speed’ from The BFG.
  2. The Minpins eat muckleberries!
  3. No-one, really – Mr Twit makes up the ‘Dreaded Shrinks’ to terrify his wife! If you did have the ‘Dreaded Shrinks’, you would get “smaller and smaller until you disappear completely.”

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Roald Dahl
About the author

Roald Dahl

When he was at school Roald Dahl received terrible reports for his writing - with one teacher actually writing in his report, 'I have never met a boy who so persistently writes the exact opposite of what he means. He seems incapable of marshalling his thoughts on paper!'After finishing school Roald Dahl, in search of adventure, travelled to East Africa to work for a company called Shell. In Africa he learnt to speak Swahili, drove from diamond mines to gold mines, and survived a bout of malaria where his temperature reached 105.5 degrees (that's very high!).With the outbreak of the Second World War Roald Dahl joined the RAF. But being nearly two metres tall he found himself squashed into his fighter plane, knees around his ears and head jutting forward. Tragically of the 20 men in his squadron, Roald Dahl was one of only three to survive. Roald wrote about these experiences in his books Boy and Going Solo.Later in the war Roald Dahl was sent to America. It was there that he met famous author C.S. Forester (author of the Captain Hornblower series) who asked the young pilot to write down his war experiences for a story he was writing. Forester was amazed by the result, telling Roald 'I'm bowled over. Your piece is marvellous. It is the work of a gifted writer. I didn't touch a word of it.' (an opinion which would have been news to Roald's early teachers!). Forester sent Roald Dahl's work straight to the Saturday Evening Post. Roald Dahl's growing success as an author led him to meet many famous people including Walt Disney, Franklin Roosevelt, and the movie star Patricia Neal. Patricia and Roald were married only one year after they met!The couple bought a house in Great Missenden called Gipsy House. It was here that Roald Dahl began to tell his five children made-up bedtime stories and from those that he began to consider writing stories for children.An old wooden shed in the back garden, with a wingbacked armchair, a sleeping bag to keep out the cold, an old suitcase to prop his feet on and always, always six yellow pencils at his hand, was where Roald created the worlds of The BFG, The Witches, James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and many, many more.

Books by Roald Dahl

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