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11 Wonderful Words from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

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Today is Roald Dahl Day, on which Dahl-ites everywhere celebrate the beloved author of James and the Giant Peach, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. While the former fighter pilot reportedly hated the 1971 movie version of perhaps his most famous book, we can’t help but love it and the wonderful words it gave us. Here are 11 especially Wonka-tastic words from the film and the stories behind them.

1. OOMPA-LOOMPA

Oompa-Loompa, doopetee doo! We’ve got some wordy origins for you.

Oompa-Loompa is an example of reduplication, the repeating of syllables for a whimsical effect. While loompa is probably nonsensical, oompa might come from oompah, the sound of a brass instrument or a band of such instruments.

In the 1920s, "oompah, oompah, stick it up your jumper!" was a popular saying expressing contempt, defiance, or dismissal.

2. GOLDEN TICKET

Mysterious candy maven Willy Wonka has hidden five golden tickets in chocolate bars all over the world, and whoever is lucky enough to find one has the chance for a lifetime supply of chocolate and—we find out later—much, much more.

Now, the term golden ticket can refer to any lucky break. The phrase plays off meal ticket, something that ensures prosperity and financial security, and which originally referred to a literal ticket for a cheap meal.

As for when exactly golden ticket originated, that’s as mysterious as Wonka himself. According to Google Ngrams, the term peaked in usage in the 1840s, although at that time it seemed to refer to a ticket for special entrance into performances and other venues.

While usage of the phrase dropped off after the 19th century, it began to rise again after the mid-1980s, perhaps around the time that Willy Wonka began running on cable television.

3. EVERLASTING GOBSTOPPER

Old Slugworth would give his right thumb for an everlasting gobstopper. The infinite candy could “revolutionize the industry,” says Wonka. “You can suck 'em and suck 'em and suck 'em, and they'll never get any smaller.”

In the 1970s, Breaker Confections, a Chicago candy company bought by Nestle in the 1980s and renamed the Willy Wonka Candy Factory, put out an everlasting gobstopper as a movie tie-in. Alas, their version bears no resemblance to the Sputnik-shaped jawbreaker in the film.

A real-life long-lasting sucker is the Japanese 60-Minute Candy, which is aimed to stop dieters from snacking and was originally made for fishermen who needed hands-free refreshments.

As for the word gobstopper, it originated in the late 1920s. Slang for “mouth,” gob either comes from the Irish gob, “beak,” or might be a corruption of gab. The term jawbreaker is older, from about 1875, and was a British brand name for a kind of gobstopper, and before that, referred to a word that’s hard to pronounce. As for usage, jawbreaker wins that popularity contest.

4. SNOZZBERRY

“Snozzberries?” Veruca says. “Who ever heard of a snozzberry?”

While on the surface snozzberries may seem merely a fantastical fruit joining the ranks of the oranges, pineapples, and strawberries on Wonka’s lickable wallpaper, the term might actually be a (very dirty) inside joke.

According to Cracked, in a 1979 adult novel, Dahl uses snozzberry to refer to a penis. When asked how she got a man to wear a condom, a character answers, "I grabbed hold of his snozzberry and hung onto it like grim death and gave it a twist or two to make him hold still." All of which makes the idea of kids licking snozzberry wallpaper super-creepy.

The construction of the word itself screams male genitalia. Snozz could be an alternation of the phallic schnozz, or nose, while berries could refer to testicles (see twig and berries).

5., 6., 7., 8. WHANGDOODLES, HORNSWOGGLERS, SNOZZWANGERS, AND VERMICIOUS KNIDS

Dahl was obviously a master at creating nonsensical words, but he didn’t make up all of the names of the monsters that the poor Oompa-Loompas had to deal with.

Whangdoodle originated around 1858 to mean an imaginary creature or unnamed thing (think whatsit or watchamacallit) while hornswoggle, to dupe or bamboozle, is from 1829. Vermicious means “pertaining to worms.”

The only Dahl-originals appear to be snozzwanger and knid. Outside of Dahl, we couldn’t find anything on knid (besides the inevitably-named indie rock band) while snozzwanger might be a blend of schnozz and wang, slang for “penis,” which seems to be a recurring theme for Dahl.

9. SCRUMDIDDLYUMPTIOUS

Scrumdiddlyumptious is a delicious portmanteau combining scrumptious and diddly. While we now use scrumptious to refer to something yummy, the word also at one time meant fastidious and hard to please. This meaning comes from scrump, an alteration of scrimp, to scrape and save. Before scrumptious came to refer specifically to tasty food, it was enthusiastic praise for anything.

Diddly, meaning something insignificant or trifling, either comes from diddle, to waste time, or tiddly, a tiny amount.

10. EGGDICATOR

A blend of egg and indicator, the eggdicator “can tell the difference between a good egg and a bad egg,” says Wonka.

11. VERUCA SALT

Dahl certainly gives Charles Dickens a run for his money in terms of making up names. While Mike Teavee is a bit obvious (the kid watches a lot of TV), Violet Beauregard perfectly captures the pseudo-elitism of new money Americans; Charlie Bucket, a plain modesty; and Augustus Gloop, the sound of a full belly.

However, the most subtle jibe might be Veruca Salt. A verruca is a kind of wart, and while salt is clearly a nod to Mr. Salt’s nut business, it also refers to wit or sarcasm, something sharp or bitter, and sexual desire.

fan theory suggests that each child represents a deadly sin. Along that vein, Veruca might be lust (although she's lusty for material items, not sex); Augustus, gluttony; couch potato Mike, sloth; and poverty-stricken Charlie, envy. However, there are more sins than kids and some, like Violet and Veruca, could embody more than one. Regardless, knowing all of that makes the band name Veruca Salt even saltier.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
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What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]

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