You Know, That Thing

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

What’s another word for a thing you can’t remember the name of?

This question came up in the newsroom this morning when a colleague referred to a story on the site as a “joint.” As in, you have to read this joint. (Incidentally, you totally should.) This usage is something like the way a person in Philly might say “jawn.” Or, if you’re in Honolulu, “da kine.” People tend to feel pretty strongly about these kinds of sayings—terms that are tough to define to outsiders, especially, end up being markers of who we are.

Which got me thinking: What other whatchamacallits are out there? There’s “thingy.” (Thanks, Tim Carmody.) Then you’ve got your “whoosits” and “whatsits.” (Thanks, The Little Mermaid.) And, via Twitter, Heather Froehlich helpfully passed on this list from the Dictionary of American Regional English, which has even more terms for “an object whose name is unknown or forgotten:”