Two Words: Doohickey & Contiguous

Doohickey and Contiguous

Having lived in the South all our lives we have to confess that we do not know the ubiquity of the non-word doohickey.  This is probably recognizable as a slang term quickly and easily, but also one that you instantly know the meaning of because you have used it.  Doohickey is sometimes hyphenated as do-hickey, and apparently has recognizable synonyms in thing-a-ma-jig and thing-a-ma-bob.

But before we dismiss these three as just slang, we must consider that they have a recognizable definition and are widely used.  When you are pressed for an answer or just overwhelmed with events these are helpful.

When asked, “What is the name of that thing you were using yesterday, you know that doohickey that fell on the floor?  You know how to answer, and the questioner’s intent is obvious.  If they substituted thingamajig or thingamabob for doohickey your interpretation would be the same.

The definition of doohickey is probably something like “A generic noun used to describe a forgotten item’s real name.  It is often used in a time of stress, fatigue, or confusion.”  Sounds reasonable to us and Webster’s agrees.

If you quickly read our second work on the blackboard as “continuous” please go back and take a second look, our word is “contiguous.”  Originally a Latin term “contiguus” meaning “touching.”  In the verb form, Latin for “contiggere” meaning “to be in contact.”

Used today to mean something adjoining something else, and often used in technical discussions.  A common usage would be in a discussion of storage devices where you need to know if data is stored in a fashion that is contiguous and that there is no gap between groups of data.

But there are other uses when discussing geography and it is a way of describing a shared border between countries.  The United States is contiguous to both Canada and Mexico.