Fah Who Foraze: The Magical Language Of Dr. Seuss


How do you speak Who?

Theodor (no typo here, he left off the e) Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss) wrote the original How The Grinch Stole Christmas story in 1957. The story jumped off the pages and into the living rooms of children everywhere on December 18, 1966, and it has remained a holiday favorite ever since. Seuss gave the Whos their very own language, which is a mix of standard English with Who-words all their own. This is what we could classify as a mixed language.

But, How The Grinch Stole Christmas wasn't the only book in which Seuss made up some interesting language. And, his made-up words have received some criticism, perhaps hindering children's understanding of the English language. On the other side, his fun wording and rhymes have created avid readers out of children for decades, and we think that's something to commemorate. So, here's a closer look at some of Seuss's most interesting words and phrases that defy English conventions.

The G-man

There’s no clear answer as to how the Grinch got his name. And, is it his first name or his surname? After all, he is referred to as Mr. Grinch at times. Of course, grincheux is French for the word grumpy, and that’s as good a theory as any. Seems like Dr. Seuss may have dabbled in French linguistics, too.

Fah who foraze, dah who doraze

This choral arrangement is the musical centerpiece of How The Grinch Stole Christmas. The Whos (down in Whoville, which exists on a speck of dust or a snowflake depending on what Seuss title you’re reading) sing it in their mixed language, so English speakers can only make out every couple of words: "Fah who foraze, dah who doraze, welcome, Christmas, come this way. Fah who foraze, dah who doraze, welcome, Christmas, Christmas day." Still catchy, though!

Since Seuss's characters existed solely in the fantasy world of his own mind, he would make up nonsensical lyrics as he pleased. The consensus is, after an extensive online search, that the words have no specific meaning, but the awesome alliteration definitely made people remember these made-up words and sing along.


Unlike most of Seuss's words, lorax has a clear Seussian meaning: "a short, orange, furry creature with big, yellow, brushy eyebrows and a big, yellow mustache." The words origin though is less unclear. Created for the 1972 children's book, lorax might have just rhymed well with other sentences in the story.

Goowho gums and bizilbix and wums

Back to the Whos: Seuss really goes bonkers with this set of lyrics. Check 'em out: "Trim up the tree with Christmas stuff, like bingle balls, and whofoo fluff. Trim up the town with goowho gums and bizilbix and wums! (We know you're humming along and tapping your toes, it's impossible not to with these rhymes!)

Of course, there are no actual definitions for items like whoboohoo bricks or bizilbix, but that hardly seems the point. By this time, you're totally locked into the Who culture, and you just figure they're decorations or . . . something. Probably what Seuss figured too.


This is a description of one of the actions involved in mixing the ingredients of Glunker Stew in "The Glunk That Got Thunk," (part of I Can Lick 30 Tigers Today! and Other Stories). Seems like it could have been an offshoot of struggle, specifically "a task or goal requiring much effort to accomplish or achieve." Some nice hot Glunker Stew would hit the spot on a cold winter night, right? It will be worth the spuggle.


We'd like to thank the Dartmouth library for this next word: bar-ba-loots from the book The Lorax. These are creatures that were "said to have formerly been seen under the Truffula Trees, 'frisking about in their Bar-ba-loot suits'."

If we had to theorize about the creation of this word, the word barba (meaning "beard" or "hair of the head") seems like it was instrumental in the naming of these little, brown, hairy creatures. As for lootswell it's clear what the meaning of that word is . . . maybe this contributed to their bad reputation (bar-ba-loots were seen as dangerous and intimidating creatures). Don't judge a book by it's cover (or Seuss word in this case).


Every one should have one of these in their homes. According to Dartmouth, this is a "characterization or designation of the cleaning machine 'fashioned' by Mr. Plunger — in Hooray for Diffendoofer Day!" One for the holiday gift list? Our office could sure use a nice Seuss cleaning.

Most likely a play on thingamajig, Seuss of course had to create his own word for an object with no name. He wouldn't be Seuss otherwise.

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