Printable Version
Pronunciation: hel-zê-pah-pin Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Chaotic, clamorous, action-packed, powerfully exciting, swashbuckling. 2. Flashy, ostentatious, flamboyant, resplendent, excessively jazzy.

Notes: Due to the unusual origin of this word and the rarity of its use, this word has had neither the time nor inclination to propagate. It was made popular by the 1938 musical review Hellzapoppin' starring the then famous comedy team of Ole Olsen and Chic Johnson. In 1941 it was immortalized in a movie. Which reminds me—if you wish, you may add an apostrophe to the end of this word: hellzapoppin'.

In Play: The original sense of hellzapoppin runs the gamut from "highly exciting" to "chaotic": "Ally Katz was arrested for starting a hellzapoppin brawl at the hair-dressers Saturday afternoon." It can also mean "strikingly flashy": "Did you see that hellzapoppin outfit that Maude Lynn Dresser wore to the party? I couldn't believe my eyes."

Word History: Today's Good Word is so outlandish it could only have come from the US. As mentioned in the Notes, it arose sometime in the 1930s. It was originally the phrase hell is (a)popping, which meant "events are evolving in a chaotic manner". This phrase is remindful of the phrase, currently used far more often than today's word, all hell breaks loose. Hell shares a source with hole and holster. Hold in the sense of a ship's hold originates from the same Proto-Indo-European word that oddly seems to have meant "cover". Pop is onomatopoetic, of imitative origin.

Dr. Goodword,

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