Made-up words in children’s books

Desmond Digby, the illustrator of one of my favourite children's books, Bottersnikes and Gumbles, recently died. Sad face.

At age seven, I got my first library fine from the mobile library visiting my tiny rural school because I couldn't bear to give Bottersnikes and Gumbles back.

In honour of Desmond Digby, because it's the Queen's Birthday Long Weekend (how brillig!), and just in case there's anyone out there muttering "but they don't MEAN anything" about the pseudoword spelling test I posted the other day, I thought I would post a nice long list of some of the many pseudowords in kids' popular culture.

Such words are also interesting to discuss with anyone who thinks the dictionary contains all the words children need to be able to read, or that reading and spelling involve memorisation of words, not encoding and decoding. How can we read or spell these words, if that's the case?

A pseudoword becomes a word when someone attaches a meaning to it, and in kids' popular culture (as well as popular culture for adults, think Westeros) this happens all the time.

Pokemon, Yu Gi Oh and Konami swap cards are all the rage at a school I visit, so yesterday I was given a lovely tour of a collection (not literature, but still a child's book) by a little chap earnestly intent on sounding out names like the ones in the picture below, because to him they really, truly were Real Words:

Yu Gi Oh

Here are just some of the many other pseudowords in children's popular culture:

Pokemon

Abra
Absol
Aerodactyl
Aggron
Aipom
Alakazam
Altaria
Ampharos
Anorith
Arbok
Arcanine
Ariados
Armaldo
Aron
Articuno
Azumarill
Azurill
Bagon
Baltoy
Banette
Barboach
Bayleef
Beautifly
Beedrill
Beldum
Bellossom
Bellsprout
Blastoise
Blaziken
Blissey
Breloom
Bulbasaur
Butterfree
Cacnea
Cacturne
Camerupt
Carvanha
Cascoon
Castform
Caterpie
Celebi
Chansey
Charizard
Charmander
Charmeleon
Chikorita
Chimecho
Chinchou
Clamperl
Claydol
Clefable
Clefairy
Cleffa
Cloyster
Combusken
Corphish
Corsola
Cradily
Crawdaunt
Crobat
Croconaw
Cubone
Cyndaquil
Delcatty
Delibird
Deoxys
Dewgong
Diglett
Ditto
Dodrio
Doduo
Donphan
Dragonair
Dragonite
Dratini
Drowzee
Dugtrio
Dunsparce
Dusclops
Duskull
Dustox
Eevee
Ekans
Electabuzz
Electrike
Electrode
Elekid
Entei
Espeon
Exeggcute
Exeggutor
Exploud
Farfetch'd
Fearow
Feebas
Feraligatr
Flaaffy
Flareon
Flygon
Forretress
Furret
Gardevoir
Gastly
Gengar
Geodude
Girafarig
Glalie
Gligar
Gloom
Golbat
Goldeen
Golduck
Golem
Gorebyss
Granbull
Graveler
Grimer
Groudon
Grovyle
Growlithe
Grumpig
Gulpin
Gyarados
Hariyama
Haunter
Heracross
Hitmonchan
Hitmonlee
Hitmontop
Ho-oh
Hoothoot
Hoppip
Horsea
Houndoom
Houndour
Huntail
Hypno
Igglybuff
Illumise
Ivysaur
Jigglypuff
Jirachi
Jolteon
Jumpluff
Jynx
Kabuto
Kabutops
Kadabra
Kakuna
Kangaskhan
Kecleon
Kingdra
Kingler
Kirlia
Koffing
Krabby
Kyogre
Lairon
Lanturn
Lapras
Larvitar
Latias
Latios
Ledian
Ledyba
Lickitung
Lileep
Linoone
Lombre
Lotad
Loudred
Lucario
Ludicolo
Lugia
Lunatone
Luvdisc
Machamp
Machoke
Machop
Magby
Magcargo
Magikarp
Magmar
Magnemite
Magneton
Makuhita
Manectric
Mankey
Mantine
Mareep
Marill
Marowak
Marshtomp Masquera
Mawile
Medicham
Meditite
Meganium
Meowth
Metagross
Metang
Metapod
Mew
Mewtwo
Mightyena
Milotic
Miltank
Minun
Misdreavus
Missingno.
Moltres
Mr. Mime
Mudkip
Muk
Munchlax
Murkrow
Natu
Nidoking
Nidoqueen
Nidoran
Nincada
Ninetales
Ninjask
Noctowl
Nosepass
Numel
Nuzleaf
Octillery
Oddish
Omanyte
Omastar
Onix
Paras
Parasect
Pelipper
Persian
Phanpy
Pichu
Pidgeot
Pidgeotto
Pidgey
Pikachu
Piloswine
Pineco
Pinsir
Plusle
Politoed
Poliwag
Poliwhirl
Poliwrath
Ponyta
Poochyena
Porygon
Porygon2
Primeape
Psyduck
Pupitar
Quagsire
Quilava
Qwilfish
Raichu
Raikou
Ralts
Rapidash
Raticate
Rattata
Rayquaza
Regice
Regirock
Registeel
Relicanth
Remoraid
Rhydon
Rhyhorn
Roselia
Sableye
Salamence
Sandshrew
Sandslash
Sceptile
Scizor
Scyther
Seadra
Seaking
Sealeo
Seedot
Seel
Sentret
Seviper
Sharpedo
Shedinja
Shelgon
Shellder
Shiftry
Shroomish
Shuckle
Shuppet
Silcoon
Skarmory
Skiploom
Skitty
Slaking
Slakoth
Slowbro
Slowking
Slowpoke
Slugma
Smeargle
Smoochum
Sneasel
Snorlax
Snorunt
Snubbull
Solrock
Spearow
Spheal
Spinarak
Spinda
Spoink
Squirtle
Stantler
Starmie
Staryu
Steelix
Sudowoodo
Suicune
Sunflora
Sunkern
Surskit
Swablu
Swalot
Swampert
Swellow
Swinub
Taillow
Tangela
Tauros
Teddiursa
Tentacool
Tentacruel
Togepi
Togetic
Torchic
Torkoal
Totodile
Trapinch
Treecko
Tropius
Typhlosion
Tyranitar
Tyrogue
Umbreon
Unown
Ursaring
Vaporeon
Venomoth
Venonat
Venusaur
Vibrava
Victreebel
Vigoroth
Vileplume
Volbeat
Voltorb
Vulpix
Wailmer
Wailord
Walrein
Wartortle
Weedle
Weepinbell
Weezing
Whiscash
Whismur
Wigglytuff
Wingull
Wobbuffet
Wooper
Wurmple
Wynaut
Xatu t
Yanma
Zangoose
Zapdos
Zigzagoon
Zubat

Winnie the Pooh

Woozles
Heffalump
Tiddely-Pom
Tigger
Sneezles

Harry Potter

Alohomora
Animagus
Azkaban
Baruffio
Bathilda
Bathsheda
Bellatrix
Dementors
Dumbledore
Dursley
Expelliarmus
Gellert Grindenwald
Gryffindaw
Hagrid
Hippogriff
Hogwarts
Hufflepuff
Inferius
Lucius Malfoy
Muggles
Musidora Barkwith
Nurmengard
Patronus
Puddlemere
Quidditch
Ravenclaw
Severus Snape
Slytherin
Voldemort
Wimbourne

Dr Seuss

Hooded Klopfer
Biffer-Baum Birds
Brown Bar-ba-loots
Chief Yookeroo
Collapsible Frink
Diffendoofer
Dr. Spreckles
Finney
Flunnel
Flustard
Foona-Lagoona Baboona
Gack
Gerpletz
Glotz
The Glunk
Grickily Gractus
The Grinch
Grox
Harp-Twanging Snarp
High Gargel-orum
Hooper Humperdink
Horton The Elephant
Huffle
Ichabod
Ish
Jertain
King Derwin of Didd
Klotz
Lorax
Lord Droon
Mayzie Bird
Mop-Noodled Finc
Moth-Watching Sneth
Mr. Sneelock
Mrs. Brown: 20
Mrs. Umbroso
Nazzim of Bazzim
Nerkle
Nolster
North-Going Zax
Norval
Nupboard
Nureau
Obsk
The Once-ler
The Oobleck
Parsifal
Peeping Drexel:
Peeping Frelinghuysen
Quimney
Russian Palooski
Schanck
Single-File Zummzian Zuks
Skrink
Sneetches
Snell, Dr. Sam
Solla Sollew
Soobrian Snipe
South-Going Zax
Spazzim
Sally Spingel Spungel Sporn
Ted: 20
Thidwick
Tufted Mazurka
Twiddler Owl
Umbus
Uncle Terwilliger
Uncle Ubb
Van Vleck
Vrooms
Vug
Wasket
Wellar
Whelden the Wheeler
Wily Walloo
Wocket
Waldo Woo
Woset
Wumbus
Yertle the Turtle
Yottle
Zall
Zatz-it
Zelf
Zellar
Ziff and Zuff
Zinn-a-Zu Bird
Zizzer-zazzer-zuzz
Zooks
Zower
Zummers

Star Trek

OK it was a TV show, but all these words were written down and used in associated merchandise, websites etc etc.

Arex
Elanna Torres
Benjamin Sisko
Chakotay
Deanna Troi
Ezri Dax
Hikaru Sulu
Hoshi Sato
Jadzia Dax
Julian Bashir
Kes
Kira Nerys
Kirk
Ress
Natasha Yar
Neelix
Nyota Uhura
Odo
Pavel Chekov
Phlox
Quark
Riker
Spock
Pol
Tuvok
Worf

The Lord of the Rings

Aragorn
Arnor
Arwen
Barahir
Bilbo Baggins
Boromir
Denethor
Dunadan
Ellesar Telcontal
Elrond
Eomer
Eowyn
Estel
Faramir
Frodo
Gandalf
Gimli
Gollum
Gondor
Grima
Hobbit
Isildur
Legolas
Meriadoc
Numenorean
Orodruin
Pippin
Rivendell
Saruman
Sauron
Silmarillion
Sindarin
Theoden


The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Agda
Agrajag
Allitnils
Anjie
Arcturan
Arium
Arkleseizure
A-Rth-Urp-Hil-Ipdenu
Blart Versenwald
Bost
Dent
Desiato
Eccentrica Gallumbits
Effrafax of Wug
Fenchurch
Fitzmelton
Fook
Frootmig
Gag Halfrunt
Gargravarr
Garkbit
Genghis Temüjin Khan
Golgafrinchans
Googleplex
Gogrilla Mincefriend
Grunthos
Hactar
Haggunenon
Hig Hurtenflurst
Hooli
Ix
Kapelsen
Kavula
Krikkit
Krikkiters
Kwaltz
Lajestic Vantrashell of Lob
Lallafa
Lazlar Lyricon
Lig Lury
Lintilla
Loonquawl
Lunkwill
Majikthise
Megadodo
Mella
Mo Minetti
Oolon Colluphid
Pag
Phouchg
Pintleton Alpha
Poodoo
Prak
Pralite
Prosser
Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz
Questular Rontok
Quordlepleen
Roosta
Sanvalvwag of Hollop
Slartibartfast
Stavro Mueller
Steafel
Streetmentioner
Strinder
Sulijoo
Thrashbarg
Trillian
Trin Tragula
Vann Harl
Varntvar
Veet Voojagig
Vroomfondel
Wonko
Wowbagger
Yooden Vranx
Zaphod Beeblebrox
Zarniwoop
Zarquon
Zem

The Simpsons

The Simpsons' made-up words are pretty famous, and though they were spoken not written on the TV show, if a child wanted to write about a favourite episode, he or she would have to work out how to spell the made-up words. Click here for a list.

Star Wars

The many made-up names in Star Wars are at www.starwars.com/databank

There is a great Star Wars name generator here: http://starwars.namegeneratorfun.com. Mine is Osorrt Novaghost, a runaway princess from The Bormea Sector. Lovely.

…and of course the last word goes to Lewis Carroll

brillig
slithy toves
gyre and gimble
wabe
mimsy
borogoves
mome raths
outgrabe
Jabberwock
Jubjub bird
frumious Bandersnatch
vorpal
manxome
Tumtum tree
uffish
whiffling
tulgey
burbled
snicker-snack
galumphing
beamish
frabjous
Callooh! Callay!

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3 thoughts on “Made-up words in children’s books

  1. Pingback: The love of nonsense words |

    1. alison Post author

      Absolutely, Bruce, but these kinds of words just reinforce the importance of teaching children the whole spelling code, not just 26 letters and a few digraphs, so that kids have the skills to attack any word they meet and sound it out.

      Reply

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