gizmo

Arrius

Senior Member
English, UK
Gizmo is a name given in America to some device or gadget whose true name is either forgotten or unknown. Some synonyms for this are dingus, doohickey, whatsit, doofer, and thingumabob in AE and/or BE. It is expressed as Dingsbums in German, un truc or un machin in French and un cacharro or chisme in Spanish.
My theory as to the origin of the word is that, despite the hard G, it derives from the second Spanish word, chisme, given above, and ultimately from the Colloquial Arabic shismu: ? , meaning "What is its name?" (shu-ism-uh?), the shu coming from shay=thing, ism=name, -uh=of it).
Your opinions on this and any alternative explanations would be most gratefully received.
 
  • Maroseika

    Moderator
    Russian
    Couldn't it be just the universal abbreviation of all the misterious and complicative things in the world ending with -ism?
    In this case "g" may be just a protetic sound.
    Something like that we have in Russian:
    измы (izmy) - universal ironical name of the ultramodern trends in the art (for example).
     

    Sepia

    Senior Member
    High German/Danish
    Couldn't it be just the universal abbreviation of all the misterious and complicative things in the world ending with -ism?
    In this case "g" may be just a protetic sound.
    Something like that we have in Russian:
    измы (izmy) - universal ironical name of the ultramodern trends in the art (for example).
    But an -ism is never an object. A gizmo is always an object, i think.
     

    palomnik

    Senior Member
    English
    It can also be spelt gismo, and I think that was the original spelling.

    I believe (but I can't confirm this) that it comes from World War II US military slang, and it a jocular abbreviation of something like "Government Issue Small Movable Object."

    It falls in the same category as "snafu" (Situation Normal - All F###ed Up), also of WWII vintage.
     

    Arrius

    Senior Member
    English, UK
    If it was originally spelt with an S, that strengthens my theory.
    As for an example of your first acronym I can only think of an all-American cockroach.
     
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