Monthly Archives: November 2011

The Story of Spoffle


 “Find new words… make up new words… abbreviate for fun…” Stephen Fry

I love language, but I can’t say I’ve got around to making up new words. I remember a friend at school who’s sheltered life didn’t allow her the usual array of swear words and expletives. Instead she had made up her own. Rumbugs when things went wrong as in, “Oh, Rumbugs I forgot to carry the one”, and Wally-wa as an expletive when something shocked or surprised her. Well known for her words, she did receive light-hearted teasing but she never gave them up for the more conventional phrases.

I was listening to a podcast by Stephen Fry about Language. He was asked if he could make up a word what would it be and how would it be used.  And it seems that Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie have enriched our language with a word that is now accepted in the sound industry.

Stephen and Hugh have done a lot of voice over work in their careers. They were in a recording studio and the sound engineer was picking up a bit of air sounds from their speech and wanted the foam wind-sock that goes over the microphones to stop that sounds getting to the microphone itself. One of them asked the engineer what the name of that device was, but the engineer didn’t know, as far as he knew it didn’t have one.

Of course that wasn’t good enough for Stephen and Hugh who muddle around with sounds until they came up with the word, spoffle.

Spoffle, the grey spongy baffle placed over a microphone to prevent unwanted noises entering a recording.

They would use it whenever they went to a recording session and though engineers had never heard of the word before, in the context of the studio it made sense and it hardly ever had to be explained.

 Then one day they were at a studio they had never been to before working with engineers they had never met. When a problem with the recording was discovered the engineer piped-up, “No worries, I’ll just pop on a spoffle.”

Victory!  The word had spread through the industry and returned to its parents. Don’t believe me? I could tell you to look it up in a dictionary, try the Macmillian which is considered the Australian standard.

Of course, I have to think up a few words. I want to think up new ways of describing old concepts or maybe a word to describe something that has never had a word to make it real. That was an idea that came up in the podcast, from the book 1984. Would we know what freedom or justice were if the words did not exist? Sounds like it may be our civic duty to make up words to describe what is important. At least to us.

 Worffling: when doing anything besides your work, at work

Here are another persons words, I think copropody needs to get into general useage. Happens all the time.

Do you have any words?