Wondrous Words Wednesday: Douglas Adams

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where we share new (to us) and interesting (to us, again) words we encountered in our readings. See this week round-up at BermudaOnion’s blog!

My words for this week come from Mostly Harmless by Douglas Adams.


This was, for them, particularly galling because normally ‘reluctantly letting someone go’ was an expression that had its boot on quite another foot.

Gall: v. make annoyed or resentful.

Also, I think the second part of the sentence is referred to this:

The boot is on the other foot (British & Australian) also the shoe is on the other foot (American) if you say that the boot is on the other foot, you mean that a situation is now the opposite of what it was before, often because a person who was in a weak position is now in a strong position
*This definition comes from thefreedictionary.com

meaning that they normally had the power not to do such a thing, but now they had to. I’m guessing, though, it would be nice if anyone could chime in.


Her TV company back in the UK would hardly have stumped up the air fare and hotel bill for her to go job hunting in Manhattan.

Stump (something) up: v. Brit. informal pay a sum of money.

I wonder how this phrase came into being, it’s not related to any other meaning of “stump”. Or is it?


Stavro would be very happy to be told that Karl was making a bit of a pig’s ear of running the New York pub.

pig’s ear: n. something that has been badly or clumsily done; a botched job (esp in the phrase make a pig’s ear of (something))
*This definition comes from thefreedictionary.com

Again, this makes me curious as to how the saying was created…

Source: TLC Guides


Life had been a little dull of late. It showed every sign now of becoming extremely froody.

Froody: adj. To be like a frood (to be really amazingly together).
*This definition comes from Urban Dictionary

OK, this is evidently a Douglas Adams creation. Frood (n.) and froody (adj.) are used throughout the “trilogy”, and explained (or not really explained, in pure Adams style) inside the books as follows:

Hence a phrase that has passed into hitchhiking slang, as in “Hey, you sass that hoopy Ford Prefect? There’s a frood who really knows where his towel is.” (Sass: know, be aware of, meet, have sex with; hoopy: really together guy; frood: really amazingly together guy.)


“Listen Ford,” said Zaphod, “everything’s cool and froody.”
“You mean everything’s under control.”
“No,” said Zaphod, “I do not mean everything’s under control.
That would not be cool and froody. If you want to know what
happened let’s just say I had the whole situation in my pocket. OK?”

The real reason I wanted to share this, though, is that I read the following on Urban Dictionary:

Modern derivation of the Old English word ‘frod’, pronounced with a long ‘o,’ reintroduced into popular usage by Douglas Adams. It isn’t possible to know whether Douglas Adams actually knew of the Old English predecessor to his coinage, but the word had almost the same meaning in Old English: wise, experienced–in general, a really together with it kind of guy!

And when I looked up “frod” to see if they were just making it up, I found this:

Frodo is the only prominent hobbit whose name is not explained in Tolkien’s Appendices to The Lord of the Rings. In his letters Tolkien states that it is derived from Old Englishfród meaning “wise by experience”.
(Source: Wikipedia)

I just thought it would be interesting to share 🙂

Source: The British Comedy Guide


Source: Fanpop!


He weltered towards it

Welter: v. literary 1 move in a turbulent fashion 2 lie steeped in blood.

I guess it’s used in meaning 1, but I noticed it because a few weeks ago someone featured “welterweight” in their WWW post — yet they don’t seem to be related!


… and started to set about the flies with vim and vigour.

Vim: n. informal energy; enthusiasm.

I only knew “VIM” as a trademark name, but I had no idea of the meaning behind it!

Source: Vim Cleaners


(All definitions are taken from the Concise Oxford English Dictionary © 2008 via WordReference.com unless otherwise stated.)


12 comments on “Wondrous Words Wednesday: Douglas Adams

  1. It is strange that welter and welterweight aren’t related. In the US, we usually use vim and vigor together, I’m not sure why. It’s kind of an old fashioned phrase. I’ve never heard froody, but I like it and wish I was that way. Your words are great today!

  2. Being English, I am familiar with just about all those phrases and words, but I have to admit that the word ‘Froody’ had me ‘stumped’!!!
    Some great words, but they do look a little ridiculous written down, and I hadn’t realised just how often I use some of them!!!

  3. @ Care: I am never really sure when an expression is British-only or American-only. I guess that kind of difference is lost to me. Too bad, but at least I react in much the same way to both types of expressions.

    @ Yvonne: I don’t find them ridiculous… Maybe “Wondrous” is the term… 🙂

    @ Bev: I’m a fan, too. Douglas Adams is one of those authors I wouldn’t dare translate, not even in my wildest dreams. Which is just about the best compliment I can pay to an author!

    ETA: I didn’t realize it, but this post is my 100th post, and this comment is the 200th comment approved on this blog. Yay!

  4. Being Australian I knew most of those words and phrases as quite common too. I do share your wonder at how they came to be, very interesting to ponder. I have always loved vim and vigour, and must set out to use it more often. I wonder if stumping up may come from cricket somehow (the 3 short posts at the end of the pitch are called stumps, and one call pull up stumps to indicate that something is over, maybe they pulled up stumps, went to the pub and had to stump up! A little bit of conjecture on my part). I loved your pondering of froody, frod, frodo. Thanks for a great post.

  5. I try to learn “English”, but i discovered here, that I have to learn too “american”, “australian” and so on ! I like very much when words are different in the different countries or parts of a country ! they always teach us a complementary meaning !

  6. @ Louise: I know too little about cricket to judge, but thanks for trying an explanation! And congratulations to you too!

    @ Annie: it happens in French, too. And in Portuguese, and in German, and I guess in any other language. Even in Italian, which is only spoken in Italy, but still has huge regional varieties. It’s always interesting to ponder the differences, but hard to get them right when it’s not your mother tongue.

  7. There are so many differences between US-english and Brit-english, it’s boggling to the mind. but fun, too.

Ditelo con parole vostre/Let your words be heard

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