Dr. Seuss’s Most Magical Made-Up Words

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The wit and whimsy of Dr. Seuss

Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known to rhyme-loving readers everywhere as Dr. Seuss, published more than 60 children’s books over the course of his hugely influential career. His collected works have sold over 600 millions copies worldwide. Geisel is even credited for adding new words to the common lexicon, such as, of course, grinch.

Dr. Seuss’s enduring charm owes as much to his playfully nonsensical language as to his penchant for anapestic tetrameter. Let’s take a quick look at some of our favorite examples of Seuss's fanciful linguistics.

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The G-man

How The Grinch Stole Christmas, originally published in 1957, may not have been Geisel's first book, but thanks in part to a timeless 1966 animated adaptation and to the modern live-action reboots, it’s one of his best-known works. In it, Seuss gives the Whos their very own language–a mix of standard English and Seuss’s characteristic linguistic inventions. The movie has remained a holiday favorite ever since.

There’s no clear answer as to how Grinch/The Grinch/Mr. Grinch got his name, but the most popular theory is that Grinch came from grincheux, the French word for grumpy. It seems as though Dr. Seuss may have dabbled in French linguistics.

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Fah who foraze, dah who doraze

This choral arrangement is the musical centerpiece of the aforementioned 1966 animated special, Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The Whos (who live in Whoville, which exists on either a speck of dust or a snowflake, depending on what Seuss title you’re reading) sing it in their mixed language, so that we English speakers can only make out every couple of words:

Fah who foraze, dah who doraze, welcome, Christmas, come this wayFah who foraze, dah who doraze, welcome, Christmas, Christmas day.

Later on in in the special, the Whos treat the viewers to one more bout of nonsensical joy:

Trim up the tree with Christmas stuff, like bingle balls, and whofoo fluff.
Trim up the town with goowho gums and bizilbix and wums
.

No, we don't know what goowho gums or bizilbixes are, but you learn not to ask questions when you're inside Geisel's head.

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The Lorax and his Bar-ba-loots

Dr. Seuss claimed The Lorax was his personal favorite of his books. The story is commonly understood to be a fable about the dangers of greed and industrialization–The Lorax, "a short, orange, furry creature with big, yellow, brushy eyebrows and a big, yellow mustache" sprouts from the stump of a recently chopped-down Truffula Tree to “speak for the trees."

The Lorax is also “in charge of the Brown Bar-ba-loots who played in the shade in their Bar-ba-loot suits and happily lived, eating Truffula Fruits.” But because of the narrator’s tree-chopping ways, The Lorax’s “poor Bar-ba-loots are all getting the crummies because they have gas, and no food, in their tummies!”

The Lorax seems like someone we'd want in our corner.

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Spuggle the Glunker Stew

In "The Glunk That Got Thunk," part of Dr. Seuss’s I Can Lick 30 Tigers Today! and Other Stories, a green Seussian creature called a Glunk describes making Glunker Stew. First they beat it to a frazzle with a special frazzle-spade, and then they “toss it in a mixer where you spuggle and spin it.”

Spuggle may have been a riff on struggle, specifically "a task or goal requiring much effort to accomplish or achieve." Some nice hot Glunker Stew be worth the spuggle though.

And, per the Glunk’s instructions, don’t forget to add a “hunk of chuck-a-luck.” That’s the best part.

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Super-zooper-flooper-do

In Hooray for Diffendoofer Day!, we get a glimpse into the endlessly interesting Diffendoofer School, located in Dinkerville. Among the school's colorful characters, (Miss Bobble teaches listening, Miss Wobble teaches smelling, Miss Fribble teaches laughing, And Miss Quibble teaches yelling) the school's custodian, Mr. Plunger, fashions a super-zooper-flooper-do to keep the school spic-and-span. Every one should have one of these in their homes.

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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Nerd

Geisel is often credited for the popularization, if not the invention, of the word nerd–even if its first appearance, in the 1950s Dr. Seuss book, If I Ran the Zoo, did not use the word in its contemporary context. In fact, in Seuss World, a Nerd seems to be just another whimsical zoo creature:

And then, just to show them, I’ll sail to Ka­troo
And bring back an It­Kutch, a Preep, and a Proo
A Nerkle, a Nerd, and a Seersucker too
.

Personally, we think calling people "nerkles" should also be a thing.

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Blumf

In 2010, a rare, unfinished manuscript by Geisel, titled All Sorts of Sports, sold at auction for $34,004. The unfinished book also introduced one last magical word to the Seuss lexicon: blumf. In it, an athlete named Pete tries playing various sports, rambling:

What am I going to do today. Well, that’s a simple matter. Oh, that’s easy. We could play. There are so many sports games to play. We could swim. I could play baseball … golf … or catch. Or I could play a tennis match. There are so many sports, let’s see. … I could bowl, jump hurdles, or water ski. I could blumf. Or blumf blumf blumf blumf blumf. Or blumf.

There’s speculation that the word blumf was simply a placeholder. But, perhaps, if Geisel had had the chance to finish the book, we would have learned about a whole new Seussian sport.

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