V is for veeblefetzer

In Don Rosa’s 1997 story “An Eye for Detail”, Donald Duck goes to work in Uncle Scrooge’s veeblefetzer factory.

face partsWhat DO you call that thing which is, you know, that, er, doohickey, a “thing that’s too unimportant to have a name of its own, or whose name you have for the moment forgotten”?

One word is veeblefetzer:

A word usually used facetiously as a placeholder name for any obscure or complicated object or mechanism, such as automobile parts, computer code and model railroad equipment.

A 19th-century Yiddish language slang word with limited usage is generally accepted as the origin. In German, the verb weben means to “weave”, while fetzen means to “rip” or “shred”…

[In the 1940s] Alfred J. Gross… invented the walkie-talkie… He was the father of Citizens’ Band radio, and for his “handle” he used the pseudonym “Phineas Thadeus Veeblefetzer”.

A few years later, Harvey Kurtzman brought the word into popular usage in his comic book Mad…

In other words, we’re talking whatchamacallits, such as:
Aglet – the piece of plastic covering the ends of your shoelace
Ferrule – the metal band that connects the pencil eraser to the end of the pencil
Tragus – the little piece of cartilage that sticks out at the front side of your ear.

ABC Wednesday – Round 16

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

20 thoughts on “V is for veeblefetzer”

  1. I shall try to remember this word. Thanks for taking care of my blog. I return next week Tuesday. Could you excuse me again for not visiting bloggers, except those who write to my blog of course . Thanks!
    Wil, ABCW Team

  2. For what it’s worth, the person who runs veeblefetzer.com has been shamed into doing a site update.

    This line was already there:

    “In German, ‘Fetzer’ is any contraption, while ‘Veeble’ is a likely corruption of ‘Webel’ — meaning weaving. Textile mills of this period were crammed with very complicated, wildly active and very loud pieces of machinery.”


    Now to figure out “potrzebie.”

    (Massive credit to FJ for tossing “axolotl” into one of my posts earlier this week, so Mad’s three maddest words are now covered. Sort of.)

  3. Wow that’s a world and a half, Yiddish words are usually snappier I think I’ll stick with widget.

  4. Great! I also like ‘whosis’ and ‘thingamabobber’, although lots of times friends and I now use BS terms from scifi movies: flux capacitor, eludium-Q explosive space modulator, compression coil, Jeffries tubes….

  5. And all these years I thought it began with an F! Never seen it written before. We pronounce it Feeblefester.

  6. Ferrule: I used to bite on the Ferrule, that was when my dad bought cheap pencils. Recently I was given some cheap pencils, and the kids grab them for the Ferrule.

  7. Hmmm, oh yeah, that thing. Why it’s called a veeblefetzer. Huh? That other thing. It’s a veeblefetzer. He-he, I’m ready to use the term.

  8. I’m going to start using that word, Veeblefetzer, even though spell checkers don’t like it. I’ll use it alongside the word Dingerdoo, which means any useless object that is meant solely to be displayed in a cabinet, such as glass figurines or souvenirs.

    …Okay, I admit it. I made up that word. But I use it all the time and almost always the meaning is immediately understood. But, I learned, never tell a shopkeeper who sells small antiques that their store is full of dingerdoos. They will consider that a deprecating insult.

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