When my children were young, one of their favourite authors was the novelist Roald Dahl, born in Wales of Norwegian parents. His popularity has only increased since then, and some of his stories have been turned into films and musicals.
You may have noticed some of our crossword clues use these titles, such as The BFG (Big Friendly Giant), James And The Giant Peach, Matilda, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory, The Witches and Fantastic Mr Fox.
To honour the much-loved author, on the Centenary of his birth in September 2016, the Oxford Dictionary added six new words which are associated with the author himself, or used in his popular children’s books.
Dahlesque was first used by the literary magazine, Books Ireland, to describe the characteristics of Dahl’s stories – “eccentric plots, villainous or loathsome adult characters, and gruesome or black humour”.
Oompa Loompas are the diminutive factory workers who played music and danced in Charlie And The Chocolate Factory. It is often used to describe someone who appears orange from a fake tan.
Human bean is a mispronunciation of ‘human being’, uttered by the giant in The BFG: “We is having an interesting babblement about the taste of the human bean. The human bean is not a vegetable.”
The first instance of the phrase is over a century older, having been used in an issue of the British satirical magazine Punch in 1842. Scrumdiddlyumptious means “extremely scrumptious”.
His use of it in The BFG has popularised it: “Every human bean is diddly and different. Some is scrumdiddlyumptious and some is uckyslush”.
Golden ticket refers to the ticket hidden in a chocolate bar that granted access to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory in Charlie And The Chocolate Factory (1964).
The first golden ticket, however, was awarded to 18th century painter William Hogarth, giving him admission to the Vauxhall Gardens in London, in recognition of his paintings of the venue.
Witching hour comes from The BFG – “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”. Shakespeare first used this evocative phrase in Hamlet.
There are many more of Roald Dahl’s words in the Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary – nearly 8,000 real words or invented ones that Dahl used in his stories. Words like biffsquiggling and whizzpopping, frobscottle and swashboggling.
As Dahl himself, once said: “A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men”.