The Quick 10: 10 Placeholder Names You Probably Didn't Know

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Today's list thingamajig is about words that are used as placeholders when you can't think of (or don't know) the real name of the thing/person/whatchamacallit. We probably know the U.S. versions, like thingy, dealybob, doohickey, John Doe, Jane Doe, Joe Schmoe, John Q. Public and so on, but do you know what they call John Doe in other countries? Hopefully whatshisname"¦ you know, the mental_floss guy"¦ is cool with this list.

10 Placeholder Names You Probably Didn't Know

1. Uncle Tom Cobley and All. This phrase is used in British English when you're talking about a long list of people and don't want to name them all "“ kind of like, "Everyone and their dog reads mental_floss." It comes from a folk song called Widecombe Fair "“ the chorus ends with a long list of people that goes like this: "For I want for to go to Widecombe Fair, With Bill Brewer, Jan Stewer, Peter Gurney, Peter Davy, Dan'l Whiddon, Harry Hawke, Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all." Sometimes it is spelled "Cobleigh".

2. Joe Bloggs. Another British English phrase, this is pretty much the same thing as John Doe or Joe Blow "“ an unidentified male.

3. Fred Nerk or Fred Nerks. Same as the above, except it's Australian lingo. Sometimes just plain old "Fred" works, too.

4. Auchterturra. Auchterturra is used as a name for a generic Scottish town, like Anytown, U.S.A. It's a fake village made up by a comedy troupe called Scotland the What? Apparently it caught on.

5. Waikikamukau. Say "Why kick a moo-cow" and you've got the pronunciation correct. It's the same thing as Auchterturra, except it's used in New Zealand (I know we have some readers from NZ on here "“ can anyone confirm?).

6. Wop-wops. Let's stay in New Zealand for a minute "“ wop-wops is similar to the boondocks or the boonies, as in, "I'm so not looking forward to visiting my grandma"¦ she lives way out in the wop-wops."

7. Sparrow's Fart. This is apparently an Australian term for really early in the morning, AKA the Crack of Dawn. "I have to get up at Sparrow's Fart tomorrow!" I'm so going to start using this one.

8. Juan Perez. Juan Perez is the John Doe of Bolivia and Mexico, among other places.

9. Schmilblick. That's the French placeholder name for an object based on a radio call-in game from the 60s. The comic strip les Schtroumpfs took its name from schmilblick, and when the strip was remade in English it was called the Smurfs.

10. La mama dracului. If you're talking about an obscure or remote place in Romania, this is the phrase you would use "“ it means "where the devil's mother dwells".

May 29, 2008 - 10:50am
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