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by Allan Fallow, AARP The Magazine, August, 2009
The quiz you are about to take will not salvage your 401(k).
It will not lower your cholesterol.
It will neither expand your health-insurance coverage nor reduce its cost.
It will, however, be a fun way to learn the exotic names of some everyday objects—thus reaffirming our quaint human notion that to name the world is to know it. (Nietzsche got it all wrong when he groused that everything we have words for is already dead.)
The objects and their correct labels come from The Whatchamacallit by Danny Danziger and Mark McCrum, a chapbook with the gauntlet-casting subtitle of Those Everyday Objects You Just Can't Name (and Things You Think You Know About, but Don't). The Whatchamacallit may seem like a notional undertaking at first, but listen to the two veteran English authors explain how their book came to be and you start to get a sense of their (somewhat) loftier purpose:
As we grow older… more and more things become whatchamacallits. Chefs who once knew their coquille from their cocotte and their bain-marie from their brochette will get to a point in life where, even if they can remember the correct word, they can't necessarily be bothered to use it. At that point, the tried and tested line, "Could you pass me the, that, er… whatchamacallit," becomes all too useful.
Instructions: Four possible answers follow each quiz question below. Although the correct answer to each question springs directly from the pages of The Whatchamacallit, we cannot guarantee that the rival terms describe actual items—or that they exist as words at all.
1) That little plastic or metal tube at each end of your shoelace is called:
a) a ravelrod
b) an aglet
c) a lacelock
d) the dagnabbit
2) Those concentric raised ridges on the top of a Frisbee are known as:
a) arcuate vanes
b) disc devils
d) flipper flats
3) The ring that catches wax at the top of a candlestick is really a:
4) Those growling sounds your stomach makes when you are hungry go by the name:
a) pang pings
5) A group of people hired to applaud a performance are technically:
a) a claque
d) a doohickey
6) Those little globules that make up the body of a raspberry or blackberry are actually:
c) froot droops
7) That plate around the light switch is properly termed:
a) a gizmo
b) a truncheon
c) an escutcheon
d) a smudge-me-not
8) The pink pickled ginger that is the sole reason for eating sushi is titled:
9) The junction between the lower buttocks and upper leg is in fact the:
a) gluteal crease
b) funbun line
c) isthmus of Callipygos
10) The space in a wine bottle unoccupied by wine is properly:
a) the aging spot
b) the vendange
c) the oenophial
11) The correct term for the dot above an "i" is:
a) the jot
b) the iota
c) the demi-umlaut
d) the tittle
12) That hunk of bread you use to wipe your plate clean of sauce should be referred to as:
a) a sorbitron
b) a schwa
c) a scarpetta
13) The distance covered by your thumb and outstretched index finger is:
a) a purlicue
b) a spann
c) a digimeter
d) a nucklenarium
14) Those obnoxious strings that run vertically between the peel and the edible portion of a banana are:
b) phloem bundles
c) fructose fibers
d) banana spritz
15) The seed pod that twirls lazily down from an elm, maple, or sycamore tree is a:
c) spiratic spore
16) A fun but ultimately time-wasting test of wits is known as:
a) a poseurposer
b) a fallowfoible
c) a brainbock
d) The Whatchamacallit: Those Everyday Objects You Just Can't Name (and Things You Think You Know About, but Don't) by Danny Danziger and Mark McCrum (Hyperion)
ANSWERS: 1b, 2a, 3c, 4c, 5a, 6d, 7c, 8c, 9a, 10d, 11d, 12c, 13a, 14b, 15d, 16d
Allan Fallow is the managing editor of AARP Books and the book editor of AARP The Magazine. Read his review of Who Is Mark Twain?
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