One of my favorite pastimes is listening to Old Time Radio (OTR) shows as I drive around. The other day while captivated by a comedy show, I heard an unusual word. I thought it was perhaps a slip of the tongue or a word created for comic effect. But then I heard it a few more times on other OTR shows. The word was “discombooberate.” I’m familiar with “discombobulate,” since my parents used it frequently during my childhood, but I had never heard discombooberate. The BOOB sound lands very differently on the ear than BOB does. Every time it was said, I paid more attention. The first broadcast was a comedy, but the subsequent occurrences were on mystery shows.
I learned about the impact of sound in audio stories when I was involved with the Hunterdon Radio Theatre (HRT) back in New Jersey. The ear catches details much more effectively than the eye. For example, I still remember a police drama episode where the door opened and never closed, even though the sound from the other room decreased as if the door had closed! I worried about that unclosed door through several scenes. Not a good thing for the show. Details like this are important when writing scripts, which I was doing for HRT.
I was curious about this new word version. I assumed correctly that it was another form of the word that I knew. Both versions are intentional comic alterations of the word “discompose” or “discomfit” which are old-fashioned terms for upsetting, confusing, disturbing, or frustrating a person. Word historians consider them be derivatives of “discombobricate.” The intentionally reworked word first appeared around 1834, as “discombobracated.” Since then, it has become “discombobberate,” “discombooberate,” “discombobulate” and “discomboomerate,” according to an article in the Times Leader (January 22, 2001). Wow! What a ever-changing word. I’m considering creating a new version. How about “discombobboberate”? That has a nice rhythm.
If you’d like to check out my New Time Radio theater or audio scripts, you can see them on elaineapowers.com. They are family-friendly. They are different lengths from five minutes to ninety minutes in length. Some of them, I based on the OTR style of talk show hosts, like the Bob and Ray comic duo. Of course, my talk show hosts are lizards, a green iguana, and a water monitor. They are entertaining and educational, just like my books. Don’t worry, they won’t make you feel discombobulated!