Monday, 6 April 2015

Discombobulate - A Disturbingly American History

A discombobulated couple
Disturbed, nay, discombobulated by American vocab
(photo by Brian Talbot)


Verb trans. North American slang. Also -boberate and other variants. Mid-19th century.
[Probably alteration of discompose or discomfit.]

Disturb, upset, disconcert.

Dissatisfied with the already bounteous vocabulary bequeathed to them by their British antecedents, Americans in the 1800s took a fancy to absquatulating from the lexical norm and inventing their own frankly outlandish words.

Discombobulate is one of those words.

The discom- bit is probably drawn from the conservative likes of discompose and discomfit, while the -bobulate part is just pure unadulterated bunkum.

And I love it.

Does the American's renegade use of our language discompose, discomfit or discombobulate you?

Do please leave your most bobulated comments in the combobubox below.


  1. Only heard this word once before during my life, and that was in the film 'Sherlock Holmes' starring Robert Downey Jr. plus Jude Law. It was in a scene with a bare knuckle fight and one blow was to 'discombobulate' the opponent and set him up for the next more devastating one.

    1. I love that scene! Where Sherlock thinks through the consequences of each blow in advance of carrying them out. Brilliant!