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Language Creations - Crocodile

Delving into Roald Dahl’s Spectacular Language Creations

As 2016 was the year that Roald Dahl turned 100 years old, we thought we would show our respects to this great British author.  We look back at some of his creations and admire his exuberant imagination and gift of language. Those who grew up with his tales and adventures were blessed with a distinctive type of entertainment that shone out of his books (like sunbeams).

His books remind so many of us of our childhood, the best times, when our imagination was at its most powerful. That’s why we still love the books today. Inevitably, we want to share that experience with our own children. Amazon realised this too and had a front page feature of Dahl’s most popular books during his birthday week (clever marketing).

quentin blake illustration Language Creations

Illustration © Quentin Blake

So what has this iconic British writer taught us?

Well for one, to have fun with language and not take it too seriously.

Roald Dahl often starts with a word that children will know, then changes the ending or blends it with another word to make something new and funny. – Quentin Blake

Creating words is great for the imagination because there’s just no limits and adults enjoy that just as much as children. He would often invent words that were fun to pronounce by adding -izz, or –ozz, or –obble or –iggle at the end.

Creations and translations

The book where his linguistic experimenting really took off was undoubtedly The BFG. He created a whopping 300 new words from ‘swigpill’ (disgusting food) to ‘whoopsy-splunkers’ (fantastic) in Dahl’s official language of gobblefunk.

The amusing world of words has definitely played its part in the book’s success. We recently seen The BGF in cinemas and it wasn’t the first time this book was transformed into film. The original BFG was an animated movie that hit screens in 1989. It was respectably brought to life by voice actor David Jason, voicing the big friendly giant, himself.

Roald Dahl’s books have been translated into fifty-nine languages. And hat’s off to the translators that had the commendable task of coming up with foreign language versions of gobblefunk. While ‘trogglehumper’ (an awful dream) means ‘jorobanoches’ in Spanish, ‘frobscottle’ (a bubbly drink) in French would be ‘frambouille and ‘Bloodbottler’ (one of the mean giants in the BFG) actually translates to ‘Blutschlucker’ in German (phew that was a mouthful).

But don’t be biffsquiggled (confused or puzzled) any longer as you can check out the Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary 2016. Dahl once said that his fear was that children would close books to watch television as a result of boredom. No fear of that, we don’t see his success slowing down with new foreign language versions, audiobooks and a new audience arising every few years. And may it carry on long after his 100th birthday.