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The Things You Can’t Name

“Dagnabbit! Where have all the dingbats, doodads and dealies gone!”

Am I the only one who talks like that? Ah, fiddlesticks. You may think I’ve went a touch mad. Join the queue, I say. But these are no ordinary words. Take dingbat. It was first used in 1911 to describe someone who was utterly mad. A dictionary at the time said it was another way of saying, and I’m quoting directly here, ‘nut case’. “Ah, that Jebediah, he’s the most recalcitrant dingbat at the telegraph office.” But it came to mean many things. A large sum of money. A hobo. A heavy object suitable for throwing. An ornamental item. And, lastly, a nameless object. Of course, if one is very unlucky, one could be many of those things. Well, it’s not inconceivable that someone could be a nameless object, a hobo and suitable for throwing. Although please, don’t get any ideas. I certainly wouldn’t want any strangers on the street to pick me up and throw me. Then again, this could be what dingbat meant back in 1911. Ah, yes, the great ‘Man Throwing Pandemic of 1911’…

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