zinger vs humdinger

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Annakrutitskaya

Senior Member
Russian
Hello!

I wonder if you would ever use zinger and humdinger as interchangeable words when describing some outstanding, excellent thing, or event?

For example:
1. It'll certainly be a humdinger of an event, seeing as we're expecting three iPhones, a new Apple Watch, new Apple Airpods, new iPod Touch ... Pocket-lint.com
Will putting zinger instead of humdinger here change the meaning, or add any nuances?

2. The President's resignation was a real zinger. (this dictionary)
Will putting humdinger instead of zinger here change the meaning, or add any nuances?

Thank you.
 
  • Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    I wonder if you would ever use zinger and humdinger as interchangeable words
    Never. I have never used and am extremely unlikely ever* to use "zinger". I have used "humdinger" in the past, but think it unlikely that I will often use it again; I suspect it is gradually dying out. I associate "humdinger" with the description of a young woman, who, apart from being extremely good-looking, also has, as they say, "legs going all the way up to her bum". (I don't know if women of my generation ever refer to a man as a "humdinger".)

    There is a clear AE/BE difference: Google Ngram Viewer

    * Never say "never", but on this occasion, perhaps I should. :rolleyes:
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    They have very different meanings. One is "remarkable (positive)" and one is "surprising (positive or negative)" (look in the dictionary at the top of the page for more complete definitions. Just because some things are both remarkable and surprising doesn't mean that remarkable and surprising are the same thing.
    I don't think "zinger" fits in 1). If you are happy about the President's resignation, you might think it's a humdinger, but if you are disappointed and shocked, it's only a zinger. Context-less sentences in dictionaries don't give you the full picture.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    In AE the words exist, but they are old-fashioned. "Humdinger" is very old-fashioned.

    A zinger is usually a statement (words) that is sarcastic and biting (it "zings" someone: it insults someone).

    A humdinger is any event or thing (not words) that is very good.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    On reflection, although I have very rarely used "humdinger" and I have seen it so rarely I had forgotten its use by others. There's certainly BE usage that does not fit this:
    A humdinger is any event or thing (not words) that is very good.
    These come from the British National Corpus, with one in three of the examples there not being "very good" but having negative connotation:
    Pierre and Donna are having a humdinger of a row.

    Robyn asked coolly, aware that this was in danger of turning into a real humdinger of a slanging match — if it hadn't achieved that status already!

    Even I knew about the CS, which had been set up the year before in the wake of a couple of real humdinger scandals in the Square Mile.
     
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