Weird Words, Part 13

My trusty but ancient (1972) edition of this dictionary did not have any of the words I used in this installment of “Weird Words.” I am so disappointed.


Just the other day I had this clue in a crossword puzzle: “not completely whack-a-doodle.” The answer they wanted was “sane.”

Until that moment, I’d never heard that word before. I know, you are probably thinking I’ve led a sheltered life. In some ways, I probably have.

I checked out the definition online and had this to say: “Wackadoodle describes someone or something as eccentric, wrongheaded, bizarre, or foolish, generally in an amusing way and with a mildly dismissive tone.”

Every now and then, I run across a word that I think must surely be a relatively recent addition to the English language. If you are talking about “blog” or “MacGyver,” “manspreading,” or “butt-dial,” you’d be right.

I thought for sure whack-a-doodle would be on that list. However, also had this to impart:  “Wackadoodle ultimately comes from wacky. In the mid-1800s England, a wacky, or whacky, was a fool, simpleton, or left-handed person (how rude). It might be from whack, “a blow or strike,” implying the person has been hit over the head a few too many times.” I love a sense of humor in what would ordinarily probably be considered a staid publication.

So it seems wackadoodle has been around for quite a while. Who knew?


That same crossword puzzle also had the clue: “Whoop-____-doo, one word.” I thought for sure the answer was “tee,” but they wanted “dee.”

Apparently, there are a lot of different ways to spell it and not all are hyphenated: whoop-t-doo and whoop dee doo are just a couple.

The Urban Dictionary had this to say:  “A sarcastic way to express joy or pleasure, when truly your [sic] feeling the exact opposite.

Merriam-Webster says that whoop-de-do is noisy and exuberant or attention getting activity. says it (same spelling) is lively or noisy festivities or merrymaking.

And defines it (also same spelling) as a commotion or frenzy of activity or excitement.

The last three seem to agree that it’s all about getting het up about something.

Sometimes origins of words can be unclear. Well, I guess it’s actually more like frequently than sometimes. had this to say:  “whoop (v.) mid-14c., houpen, partly imitative, partly from Old French huper, houper “to cry out, shout,” also imitative. It is attested as an interjection from at least mid-15c. Spelling with wh- is from mid-15c. The noun is recorded from c. 1600. Phrase whoop it up “create a disturbance” is recorded from 1881. Expression whoop-de-do is recorded from 1929. Whooping cough (1739) is now the prevalent spelling of hooping cough; whooping crane is recorded from 1791.”

I really like Etymonline … most of the time. But honestly, this one is kind of all over the place and not really very satisfying. And none of the other discussion panels or sites claiming to know the origin were all that enlightening.

So my best guess is that the dee-doo was added to whoop (to cry out, shout) as an intensifier. That’s all I’ve got on that.


I don’t know when I first came across this word. It’s been in my vocabulary for quite a long time. I don’t use it often, but I like the sound of it. My husband never hangs up his bath towel neatly so maybe I’ll have to try this on him: “Hey, sweetie. Fix that bath towel. It’s all whopperjawed.” Maybe not.

There are so many sites online wherein you might find the definitions of words. I thought I had found them all but when looking into whopperjawed, I found a new one: They had this to say:  “(Adult / Slang) 1) Askew, crooked, off-center, sideways, not right, messed-up. 2) Having a projecting lower jaw.

The Urban Dictionary looks at it two different ways, sort of. For the spelling whopperjawed, it says crooked or off-center. When spelling it with a hyphen (whopper-jawed), they define it as “Anything misalligned [sic] or moved out of or away from where it is supposed to be. Usually two objects that normally fit together in one manner that for some reason no longer do so.” [the hyperlinks are theirs and not mine]

Most of the references I found mention things being out of alignment. Only the one defined it as a projecting  lower jaw. But if you think about it that would most likely be the literal meaning of the word. So the origin of the word really shouldn’t be much of a mystery if you go with the last definition. But how did we get to askew? indicates that the origin of the word is fairly elusive. But it offers this:  “As you’d expect with such an elusive word, the origin of “whopperjawed” is a bit hazy, but the key appears to lie in what is evidently the original form of the term, “wapper-jawed.” This was pretty clearly a development of a much older (16th century) term, “wapper-eyed,” meaning someone who either blinked a lot or whose eyes rolled indicating dizziness.

Wapper-eyed,” in turn, rested on the obsolete English dialect verb “wapper,” meaning “to blink” or “to move unsteadily” (“Wapper-eyed, goggle-eyed, having full rolling Eyes; or looking like one scared; or squinting like a Person overtaken with Liquor,” 1746). The verb “to wapper” may be related to the Dutch “wapperen,” meaning “to swing, oscillate, or waver,” and may also be related to our modern English verb “to wave.””

It all seems a bit loose to me. But it’s like that with so many words. We take them for granted. We often think we know what they mean. And then someone comes along and explains how that’s not what the word originally meant. Take awful for example. It used to mean something that filled a person with awe.

So I guess it’s about time I took my whackadoodle self in hand and finished up this whooperjawed post. Oh whoop-de-doo.

Published by Dianne Lehmann

I'm a writer. But I'm also a wife and a mom to a couple of fur babies. You could call me a cook (but never a chef, I'm not that good) and provisioner as well. Laundress? Yeah. Probably. I design jewelry and I crochet. But mostly I love to write. I love words and how they sound. I love their meanings and origins. I love stringing them together. And of course, I love to read. Thinking about it just now, I realize that what I love most is life and the people around me with a special place set aside for my wonderful husband, our adorable dog and our inscrutable cat. It's the world and the people in it that fuels my writing. So thanks to you all for being the amazing beings that you are.

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