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

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