Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Let’s grab our gobsticks and gobble some grub. (Vocab. #10)

About a month ago my friend, Sandra Kungle, posted this status update on her Facebook:

“Upper East Side, Hunter College at 68th and Lexington, 5 P.M Saturday afternoon.....SIX consecutive cab drivers refused to take a little old lady (me) to Penn Station......gobsmacked!”

Gobsmacked – what a great sounding word. But where did she get it and what does it mean?

Dedicated followers may remember that novelist Shirley Hazzard contributed quite a number of words to my evolving vocabulary project here. One of the reasons Hazzard’s word choices seem fresh to my ear is because she is British. More recently I’ve been reading another Brit: Mark Haddon, who has a contribution here today.

My friend Sandra first heard ‘gobsmacked’ from yet another British attraction: Susan Boyle.

In the British Isles, the word ‘gob’ is slang for mouth. (And I have no issue with slang, as will grow clearer over time, I expect.)

Thus, ‘gobsmacked’ means smacked in the mouth; in other words, speechless or astonished.

Sandra’s post caused the word ‘gobstopper’ to pop into my mind, but again I didn’t know where the word came from or what it meant. A stopper for the mouth? Could it mean something like ‘put a sock in it’? That’s an expression I ruefully admit I’ve used a time or two.

When I tried to check the definition for ‘gobstopper’ however, I came up so empty handed I concluded I’d dreamed the word up myself.

So I moved on. But I happen to be working on a review of Mark Haddon’s 2003 novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. Among Haddon’s earlier work I find a children’s book called Gilbert’s Gobstopper! Turns out a gobstopper is a large, hard, round confection; state-side, we called it a jawbreaker.

Last but not least, in locating the meaning of ‘gobstopper,’ I found this great alternative for ‘spoon’: ‘gobstick.’

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

While I can offer no insight into it's region of origin or coining authors identity, I can perhaps shed some light on a possible source of introduction into thy minds wellspring explaining why Sandra's post might have churned its depths causing the Gobstopper term to come suddenly bubbling up to the shallows of conscious thought.

If you're from the USA the chance you may have been exposed to the word in a novel published around 1964 by Roald Dahl or I predict more likely, the film, later adapted from it and released in 1971. While well received, and profitable. It's box office numbers were considered disappointing at it's time of release. Due some say, to lack of promotion by the studio. It ranked 53 rd on the list of highest grossing films in the US of that year, earning roughly $4 million on a $2.9 million budget.
But thanks to TV and video sales by the mid-1980's it had had experienced a spike in popularity as somewhat of a cult classic which continues today gently evolving into a treasured classic still to be enjoyed by awaiting generations.

The movie of which I write is, "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory". And nestled prominently and importantly among the stories many messages, in a role that required a misdirecting presentation of it's roles true nature, which in turn lent to being remembered in a somewhat subtle manner when mixed in with the over the top dramatic company of all the films other insanity.
The role (I'll borrow your research to describe it) called for a large, hard, round confection. Which state-side, is known as a jawbreaker.
But in the world of Wonka carried the moniker of........ drum roll...


This was the item that was to determine (by the character Charlie's choices of handling it) if he would be the chosen one in Wonkas secret search for a worthy heir to live in and run the magnificent chocolate empire.

Here's a link to read further:

Of course if you never saw it. It wouldn't be the first time I was incorrect. Likely not the last either.

Anywhoo.... it seems I may have missed my calling as its promotion director.
So I better shut my yammering fontgob & get back to my dayjob.