Roald Dahl will, without doubt, be forever remembered as one of the best storytellers of all time. Such was his dedication to perfecting his characters that in 1982, after the publication of The BFG (Big Friendly Giant), it was discovered that he had created a whole new language of 238 words for his giant to speak, which he called “Gobblefunk”. Some examples of gobblefunk are “muckfrumping”, “splatchwinkling”, “crodscollop” and “pifflemutter”.
Dahl created his gobblefunk words by pulling three different words, or parts of words, such as ing, ly, ter and y out of a bag of them, which he kept in the garden shed where he wrote. He placed these words all together on the tray he rested on to write and used them to create completely new ones, to which he then gave a meaning. For example, hop, scotch and y became “hopscotchy”. Dahl decided this new piece of gobblefunk would mean cheerful.
Next time you write a story, why not use Dahl’s gobblefunk to help you? All you have to do is write out a selection of your favourite words on individual pieces of paper, along with some word endings, and mix them up in a bag. Then, whenever you need the name of a place, thing, creature, feeling – or anything else you like – you can pull two or three words out of your bag, put them together and have fun deciding what your brand new word could mean! For example, if you pulled out “runny”, “flop” and “tern”, you could put them together to make “Runnyfloptern”. What could a Runnyfloptern be? A monster, perhaps? A rabbit with huge ears? A vat of bubbling potion?
When you add some gobblefunk to your stories, you can let you imagination run wild!
Dr Kathryn Bates is a graduate of archaeology and history. She has excavated across the world as an archaeologist, and tutored medieval history at Leicester University. She joined the administrative team at Oxford Open Learning twelve years ago. Alongside her distance learning work, Dr Bates is a bestselling novelist, and an itinerant creative writing tutor for primary school children.