Tuesday, August 18, 2015
Discombobulated: A Primer
"Hang on I'm all combobulated" I said and though I didn't mean to say it, and I actually meant the dis version of it, the comment to Sweetie as I tried to get ready to leave for the Milwaukee office the other day got me thinking about discombobulated. So I went to learn more about it, and can share that with you:
-- Discombobulated has been a word since 1834.
-- Discombobulated was not even the original version of this word. The ORIGINAL version was discombobricate. Both words were 'fanciful' versions of discomfit. In 1834, people had nothing better to do than sit around making up versions of words for other words nobody ever used.
-- Think about that the next time you complain about all the 'screen time' kids get these days, and then knock it off. I would rather my kids stare at a phone all day than have to spend their time making up fake words, getting married at 8 and dying of typhus at 13.
-- The antonym of discombobulate is recombobulate. All of which suggests that combobulate, or some form of that word, is a thing.
-- It is not. Combobulate is not a word.
-- Almost everyone says that the word began around 1834, but no source says how anyone knows that. This strikes me as the kind of thing that was just said one day and then everyone believed it, like that saying about how people only use 10% of their brains. That, too, is not true. Most people don't use ANY of their brains, ha ha. But seriously, we use more of our brains than that and also, I bet "discombobulate" was not first coined in 1834. I bet it was made up in like 1973 or something.
-- According to the Dictionary of American Regional English, discombobulate does not actually come from a 'fanciful' version of discomfit. Instead, the 'bob' part of it came from bobbery, which was a word meaning "uproar or confusion." As in "There was a lot of bobbery at the State Fair when that giant corn dog exploded."
-- The "potential" World's Largest Corn Dog was disappointingly small. It was just basically a big piece of bologna that was about the size of a guy's head.
-- Isn't it kind of weird that everyone says that the word began around 1834 but not a single source I found could say why that is?
-- Really isn't it?
-- This site said the word "rose to fame on the popular sitcom Seinfeld." I have watched every Seinfeld ever and frequently have it on in the background while I work. I know Seinfeld pretty well. I even recognized that one comedian, the one who asked Jerry about his nostrils, as the guy Rachel borrows the cell phone from on Friends when she drunkenly calls Ross to say she is over him (only she's not really over him! SPOILER ALERT.) I don't recall anyone on Seinfeld using discombobulated.
-- And yet they did: In Season 3, "The Parking Space," there is this exchange:
Jerry: What did you do to my car?!
George: I couldn't help it! Elaine moved the mirror. I got discombobulated.
Elaine: Oh, like you've ever been "bobulated."
Which is weird because I always thought it was combobulated. But Elaine begs to differ!
-- In Jerry Seinfeld's Reddit AMA, he said that one of his plans had once been to be sympathetic to hecklers because it would discombobulate them.
-- So I think maybe Jerry Seinfeld made the word up.
-- There is a song called "Discombobulate," on the Sherlock Holmes soundtrack:
It kind of sounds like how it feels to be discombobulated, doesn't it?