BENGALURU: Steven Spielberg’s The BFG might not be making noise like some big releases of the year, but it’s one that evokes laughter in adults and children alike.
This is partly because the film retains some of the wittily jumbled words author Roald Dahl introduced in his 1985 children’s book of the same title. In this, the title character, the vegetarian Big Friendly Giant, and his nine man-eating, child-gobbling fellows speak a ‘langwitch’ of their own (more like a dialect) — Gobblefunk.
The words and idioms are familiar but a funnily turned out phrase results in comic effect. Not very different from Agatha Christie’s detective Hercule Poirot.
The BFG admits as much to his eight-year-old friend Sophie he has ‘kidsnatched’ from her orphanage bed: “Words is oh such a twitch-tickling problem to me all my life. So you must simply try to be patient and stop squibbling. As I am telling you before, I know exactly what words I am wanting to say, but somehow or other they is always getting squiff-squiddled around.”
Like Dr Suess, Dahl has coined his own words — and character names — in both The BFG and across the body of his works. So to mark his birth centenary, Oxford University Press came out with The Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary, which hit the stands last month.
You probably don’t need this book to understand the once-fighter pilot’s writing; children manage fine without explanation. Film and theatre artiste Mark Rylance, who endears the ‘puddled’-up giant to the audience in Spielberg’s directorial, reportedly wrote some Gobblefunk terms back into the script. And it works even better in the actor’s voice than it reads on paper.
A short list of some terms, simply for the love of Dahl.
- Chiddlers: This is how the giants refer to kids like the young Sophie and several less fortunate others who end up in their stomachs. The term has found its way into Urban Dictionary.
- Time twidddler: Immortal, like giants who just come into being. They don’t die, BFG explains. Sometimes, though, one simply ‘disappears into thick ear’.
- Hopscotchy: The BFG employs to word to express a cheery feeling.
- Majester: When he meets the Queen of England, the 24-ft giant bows, and addresses her: “Your Majester, I is your humbug servant.”
- Catesterous: A catesterous disastrophe are the words the runt giant — half the size of others whose staple is the human ‘bean’ — uses when he hears that in our world, aerated drinks fizz upwards.
- Frobscottle: A pale green ‘deluptious’ drink in Giantland, in which the bubbles go downwards. You can even find recipes for the drink that tastes of vanilla and cream, with the faintest hint of raspberry on the Internet.
- Whizzpoppers: The result of the gas from the above drink travelling downwards, considered a sign of happiness. Petty little humans might be offended by the rude noise, but to giants, it’s music to the ears.
- Snozzgumbers: The only vegetable in BFG’s country. It’s black, as tall as half a full-grown man, and tastes of frogskin and rotten fish.
- The giants’ names: Fleshlumpeater, Bloodbottler, Childchewer, Maidmasher, Manhugger, Gizzardgulper, Meatdripper, Bonecruncher and Butcher Boy.
- Beany flavours: These nine pick which country they visit each night for dinner, depending on their mood. Human ‘bean’s from each land come in different flavours. Those from Greece taste greasy, and are best avoided. People of Wales taste rather of fish, or whales, if you prefer. Those in Wellington have a booty flavour, those in Jersey are woolly, cardigan-like, and Chileans are chilly, the giant alternative to ice lollies.