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Whizbang

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Whizbang

Postby Dr. Goodword » Mon Aug 19, 2013 11:38 pm

• whizbang •


Pronunciation: (h)wiz-bæng • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective, Noun

Meaning: 1. A firework that jumps around making a whizzing sound with periodic bangs. 2. Someone or something known for its startling, unexpected, even explosive effect or excellence.

Notes: Whizbang may be used as a noun, an adjective, and, in some circles, as a verb without adding anything to it. "That was a whizbangin' concert, man," may be slang, but today's Good Word itself isn't all that far away from slang.

In Play: Today's Good Word works fine as a noun: "Susan Liddy-Gates is a whizbang at convincing juries to give her clients large settlements." But it also works just as well as a noun modifier: "No amount of whizbang technology can help Ivan Odor get elected to public office."

Word History: Whizbang arose in World War I. It referred to the shell of a small-caliber high-velocity German gun that had the characteristic set of sounds that whizbang tries to capture. So, originally this word arose by means of onomatopoeia. However, whiz and bang were words already in the language. Whiz has two origins. First, there is the obvious imitation of a hissing sound. But that does not explain the phrases whiz kid or he's a whiz at math. This usage apparently came from a reduction of wizard. Bang would seem to have originally referred to the sound a hammer makes striking metal. It shows up in Old Norse banga "to hammer" and Bengel, which means "stick, cudgel" in some German dialects. English could have picked it up from either of these sources. (Let's all thank David McWethy, a whizbang at garage sales and frequent contributor of Good Words, for today's.)
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Re: Whizbang

Postby MTC » Tue Aug 20, 2013 4:24 am

Another onomatopoeic war word of German ancestry is "buzz bomb." Named for the premonitory buzzing sound of its pulse-jet, the V-1 "buzz bomb" terrorized Londoners during WW II. I'm not sure what name America's wartime adversaries give to the cruise missile, a new and improved version of the buzz bomb.
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Re: Whizbang

Postby LukeJavan8 » Tue Aug 20, 2013 11:28 am

I remember a kid in my elementary class frequently
being called a whizkid. I wondered how he did it.
Not totally familiar, then, with natural born talent.
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Re: Whizbang

Postby Slava » Tue Aug 20, 2013 1:27 pm

Query: if "whiz" is short for wizard, what' the "h" doing there? Wiz works perfectly well.
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Re: Whizbang

Postby MTC » Tue Aug 20, 2013 7:49 pm

Whizzing back, Etymonline.com has the following to say:

whiz (n.) Look up whiz at Dictionary.com
"clever person," 1914, probably a special use of whiz "something remarkable" (1908), an extended sense of whizz; or perhaps a shortened form of wizard. Noun phrase whiz kid is from 1930s, a take-off on a radio show's quiz kid.

About whizz,

whizz (v.) Look up whizz at Dictionary.com
"make or move with a humming, hissing sound," 1540s, of imitative origin. Meaning "to urinate" is from 1929. Related: Whizzed; whizzing. The noun is recorded from 1610s.

I agree with Slava who commented "Wiz works perfectly well" as a contraction of "wizard." In fact "wiz" is the (or at least "a") recognized shortened form of "wizard." Remember the Broadway musical, "The Wiz," a retelling of The Wizard of Oz from a Black perspective? "Whiz," with one more letter than "wiz" seems more like an "expansion" than a "contraction."

But the seemingly superfluous "h" does add a "whoosh" to "whiz." If you will bear with me in a little acoustic experiment, try pronouncing "wiz" and "whiz" alternately. (I recommend doing this in the privacy of your own home to avoid any misunderstandings.) If you do not first fall faint from anoxia ,you will feel the energy the "h" adds, and how well "whiz" imitates the sound of something speeding by even if metaphorically, like that "whiz kid" Luke mentioned. So contrary to the good doc's view, I believe onomatopoeia does at least partially explain the phrase "whiz kid."
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Re: Whizbang

Postby David McWethy » Tue Aug 20, 2013 11:34 pm

My, what a diversity of responses!

When I submitted whizbang it was shortly after I had listened (for the hundredth time) to Meredith Wilson's 1957 musical "The Music Man", with Robert Preston (as "Professor" Harold Hill) exhorting the good citizens of River City, Iowa that it was a sure sign that "they got trouble" when, after school, the young ones "rebuckled their knickerbockers BELOW the knees" or when "they start[ed] to memorize jokes from Cap'n Billy's Whizbang"--a magazine for boys. When that happened:

Boy! Ya' got Trouble!
(Yes, we've got Trouble!)
Right here in River City.
(Right here in River City!)
With a capital T
and that rhymes with P
and that stands for Pool!
(That stands for Pool)...


In the interest of an incremental increase in appreciation of the esoteric and otherwise useless trivia, I'll also add that the good citizens of River City were reminded that if they weren't diligent in their efforts to keep the young ones moral after school, they'd be:

...tryin' out Bevo, trying out Cubebs, tryin' Tailor Mades like cigarette fiends.


which were, respectively, a near-beer; a botanical used in the treatment of gonorrhea; and, of course, factory-made cigarettes.

Yes, quite the snake-oil salesman Harold Hill was. IMHO, if he were around today, he'd probably be a televangelist.

And let us not forget Winthrop Paroo--Marian-the-Librarian's shy, lisping brother, played by little Ronnie Howard (who went on to play Opie on The Andy Griffith Show for eight years and later became the Academy Award winning producer of Cocoon and Apollo 13.

And finally: "Cap'n Billy's Whiz-Bang" was also a 24-volt electric scooter that (for $399) allowed one to remember "the fun you had the first time you cruised down that really steep hill on your two-wheeler". I say "was", as the company closed its doors in 2005.

I hate to run, but somewhere I hear a garage sale calling...
"The time has come," the Walrus said, "to talk of many things...."
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Re: Whizbang

Postby Perry Lassiter » Wed Aug 21, 2013 11:57 am

I also remember a short story I can no longer identify that used cubeb as a cigarette substitute. A boy made a bet he could walk by the dean smoking a cigarette and get away with it. To succeed he first went by with a cubeb, got reprimanded, and explained it was not tobacco and was for health reasons. Of course the next time was a real cigarette, which yon dean assumed was another cubeb.
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Re: Whizbang

Postby LukeJavan8 » Wed Aug 21, 2013 1:37 pm

I am from a different neck of the woods but what
is a cubeb?
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Re: Whizbang

Postby Slava » Wed Aug 21, 2013 1:49 pm

LukeJavan8 wrote:I am from a different neck of the woods but what is a cubeb?

Good question. Here's what I got from dictionary.com:
cubeb (ˈkjuːbɛb)

— n
1. a SE Asian treelike piperaceous woody climbing plant, Piper cubeba, with brownish berries
2. the unripe spicy fruit of this plant, dried and used as a stimulant and diuretic and sometimes smoked in cigarettes

[C14: from Old French cubebe, from Medieval Latin cubēba, from Arabic kubābah ]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition

Most definitely a new one to me.
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Re: Whizbang

Postby LukeJavan8 » Wed Aug 21, 2013 2:07 pm

Thanks for the 'look up". Most definitely a new one to me as
well.
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Re: Whizbang

Postby gailr » Wed Aug 21, 2013 10:52 pm

Cubeb is an essential oil and adds an interesting note to some perfume blends. It's "prescribed" for some alternative treatments. There's also an amusing list of not 1950's school-age appropriate esoteric uses for both Piper cubeba and Litsea Cubeba, through human history.
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Re: Whizbang

Postby call_copse » Thu Aug 22, 2013 7:19 am

Going back to the original word my introduction to such came from an LP of Oh! What a Lovely War.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A0LYNaN_6Ac

'.. And you'll see all the wonders of No Mans land,
If a whizbang - hits you.'
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