doohickey n : something whose name is either forgotten or not known [syn: dohickey, dojigger, doodad, gimmick, hickey, gizmo, gismo, gubbins, thingamabob, thingumabob, thingmabob, thingamajig, thingumajig, thingmajig, thingummy]
Noundoohickey (plural: doohickeys)
- A thing (used in a vague way to refer to something whose name
one cannot recall)
- What does this doohickey do?
- Finnish: vehje, vekotin, hilavitkutin
- Swedish: grunka, mackapär, manick, mojäng, pryl, sak, ting, tingest
Placeholder names are words that can refer to objects or people whose names are either irrelevant or unknown in the context in which it is being discussed. "Whatchamacallit" (for objects) and "Whatshisname" or "Whatshername" (for men and women, respectively) are defining examples.
Linguistic roleThese placeholders typically function grammatically as nouns, and can be used for people (e.g. John Doe, Jane Doe), objects (e.g. Widget), or places (e.g. Timbuktu). They share a property with pronouns because their referents must be supplied by context.
Many placeholder names are synecdoches, that is, linguistic metaphors where a part of something is used for the whole or vice versa. "Average Joe" is an example of this as not all men are named Joe. Other placeholder names, such as "MacGuffin", "whatchamacallit",or "thingamajig" have no identity beyond their use as placeholder names and so are not synecdoches.
Stuart Berg Flexner and Harold Wentworth’s Dictionary of American Slang (1960) uses the term kadigan to describe placeholder words. They define kadigan merely as a synonym for thingamajig; if so, then kadigan is itself a kadigan. The term may have originated with Willard Richardson Espy, though others such as David Annis also used it (or cadigans) in their writing. Its etymology is obscure—Flexner and Wentworth related it to the generic word gin for engine (as in the cotton gin). It may also relate to the Irish surname Cadigan.
Words describing generic categories may also be used in this function of a placeholder (e.g., "flower" for tulips and roses), but they are not considered to be cadigans.
ConnotationEspecially when used to refer to people, some placeholder names can have a connotation, usually negative. See "Whatshisname" for an example.
Abbreviations used in this article
- AHD = The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition (2000), retrieved from Bartleby.com
- Cambridge = Cambridge Dictionaries Online
- Encarta = Encarta World English Dictionary (2007), retrieved from Encarta.msn.com
- Etymonline = Online Etymology Dictionary (2001), retrieved from Etymonline.com
- M-W = Merriam-Webster (2006-07), retrieved from Merriam-Webster Online
- RH = Random House Unabridged Dictionary (1997), retrieved from Infoplease.com
- s. = sense; thus s.2 means "sense 2" of a dictionary entry
Placeholder names in English
Things (inanimate objects or concepts)Common placeholders in the English language include:
- compuftimacator (to describe a contraption, especially mechanical)
- da kine (Hawaiian Creole English, universal placeholder)
- dealie, dealy, or deelie (northwestern U.S) http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/deelie
- dingus http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/dingus
- diseere (southwestern P.A.)
- doohickey http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/doohickey
- do-dad, http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=do-dad doodad (North America)http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/doodad and doodah (UK)http://www.chambersharrap.co.uk/chambers/features/chref/chref.py/main?query=doodad&title=21st
- doofer http://encarta.msn.com/encnet/features/dictionary/DictionaryResults.aspx?refid=1861605958
- flask or frasc (Connecticut, U.S.A.; frasc is derived from the Spanish term "frasco", which is Spanish for flask)
- foo or foobar (Used primarily in the computer industry)
- frobnitz http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=frobnitz&r=66
- gewgaw or geegaw
- gubbins (British slang) http://www.askoxford.com/concise_oed/gubbins?view=uk
- hingmy (Scottish, derived from thingummy)
- hoojikapivy (derived from hoojamaflip)
- jobby or jobber
- oojamaflip (Also hoojamaflip)
- thingamabob (sometimes spelled thingumabob or thingumbob) http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/thingumbob
- whatchamacallit (originated by the phrase “What you may call it”, and sometimes shortened to whatchacallit)
- whatsit (sometimes spelled wotsit)
- whatsitsname (British form of whatchamacallit, sometimes spelled wossname)
- widget (especially in economics, for a product whose identity is unimportant)
- wing wong for a goose's bridle, Australian answer to naïve "What is that?"
- yadda-yadda-yadda (popularized by the television show Seinfeld as a placeholder for "various events took place which I do not care to describe in detail".
- yoke (Commonly used in Ireland)
A thingamajig is different from a widget, in that a widget is an actual, but not yet named or constructed, mechanical component. It is also different from a gadget, in that “gadget” is the generic term for a superfluously useful device, such as a remote garage door opener, whose name is easily remembered.
Even among the world of otherwise nameless things referred to by placeholder names, there is a hierarchy of specificity. "Thing", as its name implies, is universally applicable. It is likely, however, that a "gizmo" involves some minor degree of technological sophistication, connoting as it does some mechanical or electronic aspect.
Most of these words exist in the less formal register of the English language. In more formal speech and writing, words like accessory, paraphernalia, artifact, instrument, or utensil are called into play; these words also refer to things made by human hands without getting specific about their form or function. These words also differ slightly in usage: artifacts are usually found objects of indeterminate age and purpose, while utensil suggests cutlery.
These words have been in regular use since at least the nineteenth century. Edgar Allan Poe wrote a short story entitled The Literary Life of Thingum Bob, Esq., showing that particular form to be in familiar use in the United States in the 1840s. In Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado, W. S. Gilbert makes the Lord High Executioner sing of a "little list" which includes:
. . . apologetic statesmen of a compromising kind,Such as--What d’ye call him--Thing’em-bob, and likewise--Never-mind,and ’St--’st--’st-- and What’s-his-name, and also You-know-who--The task of filling up the blanks I’d rather leave to you.
According to Trey Parker's audio commentary, "schpadoinkle" was composed as a placeholder, and was not initially intended to actually be used in Cannibal! The Musical.
Placeholder names are also used in computing.
- Foo and bar are commonly used as placeholders for file, function, and variable names. Distinguish Fubar
- Hacker slang includes a number of placeholders, such as frob, which may stand for any small piece of equipment. To frob, likewise, means to do something to something. In practice it means: to adjust (a device) in an aimless way.
Other technical-soundingOther words that may have specific technical meanings are occasionally used as placeholders as well. Some words that are so used in English include:
PeopleKadigan-like expressions can refer to people as well. Among words or phrases used in English to refer to people of unknown or irrelevant name are:
- Tom, Dick and Harry, for a series of three specific unnamed (usually male) people; or for any quantity of unknown people, usually with the term "every", for example: "Every Tom, Dick and Harry showed up to the party." Harriet may sometimes be substituted for Harry for a more gender-balanced version of the phrase.
- Uncle Tom Cobley and all — another placeholder phrase, in this case used to indicate a long list of people.
- So-and-so; also often used as a euphemism for a stronger, possibly vulgar epithet, for example, "that stupid...so-and-so!"
- Buddy (Newfoundland English), any male of unknown identity, often used in conjunction with "Whasisname".
- Joe Bloggs (British male, referring to anyone of unknown identity)
- Fred Bloggs (British male, referring to a subsequent unknown person)
- Fred Nerks or Fred Nerk or just Fred (as in "Fred, you can't turn right here" (Australian equivalent of Joe Bloggs))
- Joe Public (British English, refers to an average person in the street)
- A.N. Other (unspecified person on a list, often abbreviated to ANO)
- Joe Blow (average male person - North America)
- Joe Schmoe (average male person - North America)
- John Doe/Jane Doe (often used to refer to an unidentified corpse, litigant, or suspect)
- Jane Roe (the pseudonym of Norma Leah McCorvey in Roe v Wade, the watershed US Supreme Court case setting abortion rights)
- The Joneses (used as a placeholder for the typical average family)
- Mrs Kafoops (Australian, slightly derogatory)
- Dat fella (Malaysian/Singaporean for "that fellow")
- Yer man (Irish male)
- Yer one (Irish female. Unlike the male form, sometimes used to connote contempt)
- Joe Soap (Irish English, refers to any typical person)
- Himself/Herself (Irish male/female)
- Lord/Lady Muck (Male/Female who is acting as if others are their servants)
- Frick and Frack (Indistinguishable Male pair)
- Tweedledee and Tweedledum (Indistinguishable Male pair, slightly derogatory)
- Grandma/Grandpa (a usually older adult lacking technical knowledge)
- PVT Snuffy or Joe Snuffy (US military, referring to any general soldier or low-ranking individual)
- Kadoogan (One example of 'kadigan' being used as a kadigan is in the Ren and Stimpy Show where Stimpy's last name is given as Kadoogan, an obvious reference to the word kadigan.)
- "Wendy Wellesley" is used as "Jane Doe" at Wellesley College
- Emmet and Grockle are mildly abusive yet affectionate West Country terms for tourists. "Emmet" is Cornish for "ants".
- Matey is a West Country term for a person with whom one has an anticipated, temporary or intermittent personalised interaction restricted to specific requirements or actions, eg. "We'd got as far as the Okehampton Bypass when we stopped to give Matey there a jump-start."
- J. Random X (e.g., J. Random Hacker, J. Random User) is a term used in computer jargon for a randomly selected member of a set, such as the set of all users.
- Fnu Lnu is used by authorities to identify unknown suspects, the name being an acronym for First Name Unknown, Last Name Unknown. If a person's first name is known but not the last, they may be called "John Lnu" or "Fnu Doe", and an unidentified person may be "Fnu Lnu". For example, a former interpreter for the United States military was charged as "FNU LNU", and a mute man whose identity could not be determined was arrested and charged with burglary in Harris County, Texas under the name "FNU-LNU" (charges were later dropped because authorities could not communicate with the man). Fnu-Lnu conjunctions may also be used if the person has only a single name, as in Indonesian names. The name has been considered a source of humor when "Fnu Lnu" has been mistaken for the actual name of a person.
Certain fixed expressions are used as placeholder names in a number of specialized contexts. In formal legal contexts, John Does are sometimes mentioned; in more informal English, people sometimes need to speak of Old So-and-so or What’s-’is-name or What’s-’is-face (cruder) or Miss Thing. Tommy Atkins is a mythical Briton who filled out all his forms correctly, and as such lent his name to British soldiers generally; his Canadian counterpart is "Corporal (or some other rank) Bloggins". John Smith, often from “Anytown, U.S.A.,” and John Q. Public are also used as placeholder names for unnamed citizens, and similarly in Britain one might refer to Joe or Fred Bloggs. "Joe Random" or "Joe Average" are also referred to, sometimes more specifically as "Joe Average Voter" or "Joe Random Customer". In Australia, the name John Citizen is used in a similar capacity on samples of forms or cards. In America, Joe or Jane Sixpack refers to the perceived average middle or lower class person. In theatre, television and motion pictures, the great actors Walter Plinge, David Agnew, and George Spelvin are pseudonyms used for cast members who prefer to go unnamed. The name Alan Smithee is similarly used by film directors who wish to remain anonymous (often because their film did not turn out well). Conversely, placeholders can be used to conceal identity, as seen in the above Gilbert and Sullivan lyrics. The Newfoundland entertainer "Buddy Whasisname" derives his stage name from a common local usage (combining two terms) describing an unknown male.
Movies and theatre also give rise to another specific type of kadigan, the MacGuffin. This is any object or person used to drive a plot or as the goal of a quest, but which otherwise has no relevance to the action, and thus could be replaced in the script with another similar item with no loss of sense. A foozle is a generic enemy or group of enemies that must be defeated for the plot to move on in a game.
Cryptographers conventionally use a fixed cast of characters when describing their systems in general terms. For example, the quintessential cryptographic system has Alice wanting to send a message to Bob without Eve being able to eavesdrop on them. These are even used in formal, peer-reviewed papers in the field, see Alice and Bob.
Forms of addressSome placeholders are used in second-person to address another, usually — but not always — because the second party's name is unknown.
Sir or Madam/Ma'am. In English-speaking society, the most universally-accepted forms of address to another person, known or unknown, and regardless of station, are "Sir" (to men) and "Madam", sometimes shortened to "Ma'am", (to women). "Sir" and "Madam/Ma'am", for example, are considered acceptable forms of address for most of the world's heads of state, including royalty.
Friend. "Friend" or other synonyms of amity may be used in its literal sense, but is often used ironically to indicate displeasure or hostility. May also be used between strangers in a non-ironic manner. Used especially among Quakers, the Society of Friends.
Terms of endearment. Words such as "honey" or "sweetie" are generally perceived as affectionate between friends, family or intimates. Outside this group, or in more formal or professional settings, the use of these words becomes more problematic. Their use by a person to a member of the opposite sex may be seen as forward or presumptuous, or even patronizing and demeaning (especially when used by a man to a woman). When used by a woman to address another woman, the sense may be friendly or hostile (see Friend, above); when used by a man to another man, it is generally perceived to have homosexual overtones (i.e., suggesting that either the speaker or the addressee — or both — is homosexual).
Second-person kadigans include:
- Amigo (Spanish for "friend");http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=amigo occasionally used by non-Hispanics when calling out to an unknown Hispanic male (though might be considered rude or offensive)
- Babyhttp://www.infoplease.com/ipd/A0330371.html or
- Big Boy or Big Guy or Big Man
- Bird (UK, woman, usually young; cf. chick). Also My Bird : a traditional Cornish term of endearment from an older female to a younger one.
- Bloke (Man, British English)
- Boo, (urban slang) significant other
- Bra (Variant of 'bro')
- Bredren (Jamaican slang or Rastafarian vocabulary, derived from "Brethren")
- a "close male friend" (Encarta, s.3)
- a male person "engaged in the same movement" (Ultralingua, s.3; Cambridge, s.2)
- slang form of address meaning "fellow" or "buddy", as in "Brother, can you spare a dime?" (RH, s.7, Etymonline)
- one black male to another (Cambridge, s.4; Etymonline)
- a normal form of address for a members of various fraternal or monastic groups (Cambridge, s.3)
- Buddy or Bud ("Buddy" is especially common in Newfoundland English)http://www.heritage.nf.ca/dictionary/azindex/pages/603.htmlhttp://www.heritage.nf.ca/dictionary/azindex/b.html
- B'y: Newfoundland pronunciation of "Boy", used as a general form of address primarily to a male but now increasingly to females. It does not hold any of the derogatory meaning that the term "Boy" does in standard English, especially when directed at minoritieshttp://www.heritage.nf.ca/dictionary/azindex/pages/482.html
- Chick (woman, usually young). Sometimes perceived as disrespectful of women.
- Chief (for a person in authority)
- Chum or Chummie/Chummy - the latter being also an insider term often used by UK Police to refer to an as-yet unidentified suspect.
- Dear or Dearie
- Doll or Dolly
- Dude (man or woman; also a general exclamation)
- Dudette. Sometimes used as the female version of dude.
- Ducks or Ducky
- Fella (UK + Australian, man, stranger or person)
- G (abbreviation for "gangster," often used ironically)
- Geezer (Man, British English; in American English, an irreverent term for an older man)
- Grandma, Gram, or Granny, an address to an older woman. Can be disrespectful.
- Grandpa, Grampa, or Gramps, an older man - may denote disrespect.
- Guv or Guvnor (UK, man) - usually one's boss or senior.
- Guy or Guys (to a man)
- Homeboy or Homey or Homes (may be used as a term or endearment between male friends, or aggressively by strangers or enemies)
- Honey or Hon
- Jack (man), generally in an unfriendly sense
- Lad or Lass
- Lady (woman)
- Little one
- Little man
- Love (UK)
- Ma'am, Madam, or Madame (woman)
- Mac (man)http://www.infoplease.com/dictionary/mac
- Maid, (Newfoundland English and West Country) a woman, or a young unmarried girl or daughterhttp://www.heritage.nf.ca/dictionary/azindex/pages/2815.html
- Man (to a man).http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?book=Dictionary&va=man It may also be used as an interjection, not addressed to anyone in particular, in which case it is not truly a kadigan ("Aw, man!").
- Mate (UK, man)
- My Lover (Southwestern UK)
- Miss, generally addressed to a young woman or girl. In some dialects, it is a form of address for a female teacher, regardless of her marital status.
- Missus, Newfoundland English term of respect or affection for a mature womanhttp://www.heritage.nf.ca/dictionary/azindex/pages/2916.html. Also in British English, a term of affectionate reference to one's wife/female partner/steady girlfriend.
- Nigga, (African American Vernacular English) though it has been known to be used between Black people as a term of endearment, there is a controversy associated with its usage as it is an eye dialect of a racial slur, and an on going debate as to whether or not there is any meaningful difference between the two terms.
- Oppo (uk), typically a term used to describe a colleague in the construction industry.
- Pal or Pally
- Padre, from the Spanish word for "father", a military kadigan for any man of the cloth, regardless of denomination
- Pop or Pops, often a disrespectful term for an older man
- Shorty, (urban slang) an attractive female. It can also be addressed to someone younger than the addressee or to a colleague that is new or inexperienced in the same field as the addressee (ie: a rookie, a new rapper)
- Sister (woman)
- Sis, shortened version of sister
- Skipper, Newfoundland English term of respect or affection for a mature manhttp://www.heritage.nf.ca/dictionary/azindex/pages/4252.html
- Son: generally used by an older man to one at least a generation younger; or by a man who, by virtue of rank or position, has charge or authority over the other, such as a drill sergeant over a private soldier. In the latter instance, it may be in a hostile context: "Son, you'd best move your ass before you find my foot up it!"
- Sonny or Sonny boy: also generally used by an older man to one at least a generation younger; there would be a degree of hostility: "Listen to me, Sonny boy ..."
- Sweetheart or Sweetie
PlacesIn some forms of English, placeholder names exist to represent locations, particularly the stereotypical backward, insignificant or isolated town in the middle of nowhere. These include:
- Anytown, USA and Dullsville in the USA
- Auchterturra in Scotland, and Glenboggin, which has its own official website http://www.community-council.org.uk/Glenboggin/
- Bally-Go-Backwards in Ireland (unspecified remote small country town)
- Black Stump in Australia and New Zealand (“beyond the black stump” indicates an extremely remote location).
- The Boondocks (or the Boonies)
- (East/West) Bum(ble)fuck (or Butt Fuck) in the USA (vulgar). Bumblefuck, Missouri was popularized by the 1988 movie Rain Man. Also heard as Bumfuck, Iowa or Bumfuck, Idaho.
- BFE or Bumblefuck, Egypt (also Bumfuck, Egypt, Butt Fuck, Egypt or Beyond Fucking Egypt) (vulgar), refers to an unspecified remote location or destination, assumed to be arduous to travel to, unpleasant to visit and/or far away from anything of interest to the speaker (e.g. Man, you parked way the hell out in BFE). In Southeastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey, this is often referred to as East Jabip''. In the Chicago metropolitan area, the term was coined to refer to the region in downstate Illinois known as "Little Egypt", centered in Cairo, Illinois, for being the furthest from the urban center in both distance and way of life.
- Buttcrack or Upper Buttcrack (usually a New England state)
- Crackerland and Jerkwater (from the 1982 film First Blood, small hometowns of typical US Army recruits)
- Hickville is used to describe a small farming town. (Hick comes from hillbilly)
- Dog River, Armpit or Moose Fuck (vulgar) in Canada
- Loamshire for a rural county in England (and the Loamshires for a regiment based in that county)
- Podunk in the USA
- "East Jesus, Nowhere"
- Sainte-Clotilde-de-Rubber-Boot in Quebec, Canada
- Timbucktoo is still commonly used to refer to an unspecified but remote place. Sometimes exaggerated as "timbuckthree", "timbucktwelve", etc. to indicate further removed than timbucktoo.
- Upper Rubber Boot in Ontario, Canada
- Woop Woop or Upper Woop Woop in Australia and New Zealand (often 'out Woop Woop' as in, 'they live out Woop Woop somewhere,' and used when referring to people who live in a country area unfamiliar to the speaker).
- Waikikamukau (pronounced ‘Why kick a moo-cow’) in New Zealand
Other place names include:
- Blackacre, Whiteacre, and Greenacre are widely used in law courses to represent hypothetical estates in land.
- Joe's Diner is used to refer to a typical restaurant run as a small business.
- Oxbridge in the UK (a portmanteau of Oxford and Cambridge, locations of the two universities. It refers to the two universities collectively, not to the two towns).
Common components of placeholders for places are -town, -ville, -hampton (in the United Kingdom), -vale, Big-, Mid-, Middle-, Little-, Small-, Bally- (in Ireland), and Any-. The National Health Service of the UK, as well as the Department for Transport, use a large variety of placeholders as examples, including:
- Port Lever
- Eastern Vale
NumbersEnglish employs a number of kadigans to refer to unspecified quantity (see Indefinite and fictitious large numbers):
- squillion (hence squillionaire = multi-millionaire), bajillion, bazillion, brazillion (used in the punchline of jokes as a homonym for Brazilian), buhmillion, frillion, gazillion, jillion, kajillion, hojillion, schmillion, zillion and many others — these usually refer to large numbers that would be impractical to count;
- eleventy-; e.g., eleventy-four. (Occasionally used in jocose literal sense "one hundred ten", as in The Lord of the Rings: Bilbo Baggins’ eleventy-first birthday was his one hundred and eleventh);
- mumblety, used specifically to conceal one’s advanced age, as in "I shall be mumblety this year" or "mumblety-three";
- tons (although this can also refer to 2,000s);
- a couple (although this can also have the specific value 2);
- a couple-few or coupla few (in some dialects);
- bunch, as in "a whole bunch of..." - generally confined to American English use;
- [expletive]-load e.g. shitload or shitloads;
- metric fuck-ton, generally used by engineers or laborers;
- -something (e.g., twenty something) as exemplified by the name of the television series thirtysomething
- a few
- loads (may also be truckloads, busloads, etc.)
Dates and times
- Composite names such as "Juvember" (combining June and November), "Septober" (September and October), and "Decemuary" (December and January) are sometimes used to refer to an indeterminate month.
- Nonexistent days, such as February 31 or the 12th of Never (usually given as the intended date of occurrence for something that will never happen, as in the popular song The Twelfth of Never).
- Nonexistent times, such as 13 o'clock, often used to describe when something is going to start or finish, but meaning it's still a long way off.
- "Tib's Eve", named for the nonexistent Saint Tib, is a date which does not exist.
- Saint's days of saints with obscure or odd-sounding names, such as Saint Swithin's Day.
- "Two hairs past a freckle", (or "a freckle past a hair") said
when one is asked the time but despite making the habitual gesture,
is not wearing a watch. Is sometimes extended to "A hair past a
freckle, going on a mole."
- Also "Skin o' clock" or "Half-past my elbow"
- "God-thirty in the morning," "holy mackerel o'clock," "silly o'clock", "butt crack of dawn" referring to a time very early in the morning
- "Oh-dark thirty" or "Oh-dark hundred," also referring to some time early in the morning (before the sun rises); usage is derived from military parlance, where 4:00 a.m. is referred to as "oh-four-hundred"
- "Dark plus thirty" meaning (loosely) just after sunset in Rainbow Gathering or Deadhead (or other festival) vernacular, meaning or thirty minutes after sundown, or more humorously, in at some indeterminate time after dark, Rainbow Gatherings tending not to happen according to any sort of schedule.
- "Dark o' clock" may mean early or late.
- "Late-thirty" may mean late at night.
- "Beer thirty" means it's time for the first beer in a beer-drinking session. Alternatively, beer thirty means an unspecified time during a long bout of drinking or thirty minutes until beer is no longer sold in stores, meaning that it is time for a beer run. Can also be used by bartenders to denote the time when the last drunks from the bar are driving home after closing time.
- "Pub O'Clock" also refers to drinking, but more specifically going to the pub to drink. Also "Pint O'Clock".
- "Yonks" is used in English to mean a long but indefinite duration; it is conjectured to derive either from "donkey's years" or from "years, months and weeks". This has been going on for donkey's yonks.
- "Half past a monkey's ass" or "Half past a monkey's ass and quarter till his balls" is used when one is asked the time but doesn't want to be bothered. Similarly: "Half past give-a-shit"
- "Sparrow's fart" is an Australian expression meaning very early in the morning - e.g., "I have to get up at sparrow's fart!"
- "Tooth-Hurty" (two thirty) Time to go to the dentist.
Placeholder names in other languagesMost other languages have placeholders of some sort in their vocabulary.
ArabicArabic uses Fulan / Fulana[h] فلان / فلانة and when a last name is needed it becomes Fulan AlFulani / Fulana[h] AlFulaniyya[h] فلان الفلاني / فلانة الفلانية. When a second person is needed, ʿillan / ʿillana[h] علان / علانة is used. The use of Fulan has been borrowed into Spanish, Portuguese, Persian and Turkish, as shown below.
BengaliBengali uses the universal placeholder ye (from the Hindi pronoun for he/she/it). Ye is used for everything-people, places, things, times, or numbers. ওমুক omuk can also be used as a placeholder for people.
BosnianBosnian uses the name Hepek to refer to any object or person. The word was often used by Top Lista Nadrealista.
CatalanCatalan uses the names daixonses / daixonsis and dallonses / dallonsis to refer to any object or person; d'aixo (in English: "of this") and d'allo (in English: "of that") are also used with the same purpose
In Chinese, question words are used as placeholders. An unspecified object is shénme or shénme shénme (Simplified Chinese: 什么什么; Traditional Chinese: 什麼什麼) (literally, "what what"), an unspecified location is nǎlǐ (哪里) , literally "where," an unspecified person mǒu (某), literally "someone," and so on.
Zhang San, Li Si and Wang Wu are Chinese placeholder names.
In Czech, there are several placeholder words for things like toto, tentonoc, udělátko (gadget), hejble, etc. For persons, týpek placeholder word is becoming increasingly popular (in slang, among young people, etc.). Czechs and Slovaks would also usually understand each other placeholder words.
DanishIn Danish a common placeholder word is dims (derived from German Dings), used for small unspecified objects (gadgets).
DutchIn Dutch the primary placeholder is dinges (derived from ding, "thing"), used for both objects and persons. The diminutive of ding, dingetje (lit. "little thing" or "thingy") serves as a kadigan for objects when used with an article, and for persons without. The equivalent of John Doe for an unspecified (but not an unidentified) person is Jan Jansen ("Jansen" being one of the most common Dutch surnames) while Jan Modaal ("John Average") is the average consumer and Jan Publiek ("John Public") the man in the street. Obscure, faraway places are Timboektoe and Verweggistan (lit. "Farawayistan"); the archetypal small village is Nergenshuizen ("Nowhereville"), or more informally Boerenkoolstronkeradeel ("Kalestumperadeel", -eradeel being an archetypal suffix for municipalities in Friesland), or in vulgar speech Schubbekutterveen (literally "Scales-cunt-moor"). Lutjebroek is also used in this sense, but is actually a real village. The nonsense word hutsefluts is used as a placeholder for just about any proper name. Sint-Juttemis is used as a nonsensical date, meaning "never", even though it may be derived from a real saint's day. Stront met streepjes ("Shit with stripes") is a placeholder name for food. Generally used after some-one asks what food is going to be eaten. Flemish usually makes use of either Steenokkerzeel (genuine place name) or Koekelorekapelle (may place names end in -kapelle, meaning "chapel").
The Flemish name for an unspecified person could be Jef Van Pijperzele. Jef is a common pet form of Jozef. Another pet form, Jos, carries slightly condescendant undertones. Elckerlyc (Every-body, literally) is a character from a medieval play Elckerlyc en de Dood (Everybody and the Death). It is occasionally used to say any mortal.
In Brussels Flemish dialect, an unspecified far-ago time is den taaid van de blieke pataten (the time when potatoes were pale blue). In Flanders, an obsolete object is said to date van het jaar Stillekes (from year Gently).
EsperantoEsperanto has an all-purpose placeholder suffix um, which has no fixed meaning and simply tells that an object or action has something to do with some purpose or object, for instance butonumi (“to button up” or “to press a button”). It has acquired a specific meaning in some compounds, like brakumi, "to embrace", from brako, "arm".
The placeholder suffix was originally devised as a catch-all derivation affix. Once affixes became routinely used as roots and inflected, um became a placeholder lexeme, which would take affixes of its own: umi "to thingummy", umilo "a thingummy tool", umado "thingummying" etc. A common popular derivative is umaĉi (with pejorative suffix -aĉ-), "doing something fishy". The affix-turned-lexeme aĵo "thing" is also arguably a place holder, since it is less specific than the older lexeme objekto. afero "business" is a lexeme used as an astract placeholder.
The particle "ajn" (= "any") can also be used as a placeholder. A generic object may be referred as «io ajn» (anything, some thing), or «ajno» (informal); the forms "ajna" and "ajne" ("any kind of" and "in any way") are acceptable colloquial synthetic variants of the longer and more formal "ia ajn" and "iel ajn".
PeoplePlaceholders for people include "Juan Dela Cruz", the Philippine Uncle Sam and, "Poncio Pilato" another term for the everyman.
ThingsSampo can be considered the oldest placeholder word in the Finnish language. In folk mythology and in the Kalevala, it refers to a mystical object which was a source of immeasurable wealth and whose exact nature remains a mystery. The word is still in use – in particular, it can be found in expressions such as rahasampo ("a cornucopia of money").
Hilavitkutin is one of the most common Finnish placeholder words for technical objects and machinery. It refers to "a device for vitkuttaa-ing a lattice". The ordinary meaning of the verb vitkuttaa is nonsensical in this context, as it means "to do something slowly in order to delay it". Arguably, vitkuttaa can also evoke associations of oscillation, "shaking back and forth", in native speakers of Finnish. This is a word derivation of interrogative pronoun mikä (what) and suffix -tin, referring to a tool or device. It basically denotes the same as English whatsit.
An idiosyncratically Finnish placeholder word is mikälie or mikä lie, literally "whatever (it) may be". It utilizes the Finnish verb form lie or lienee, meaning "(it) probably is" – i.e., "to be" in the potential mood. This inflected word form is quite rare in everyday speech, which has resulted in its grammatical function being (mis)interpreted by native speakers as a grammatical particle instead of a verb. This, in turn, has given rise to constructions such as mikälie.
Other generic placeholder words in colloquial use include systeemi or sydeemi ("system"), and juttu (also jutska or judanssi, both from juttu), homma and hommeli ("thing", "thingy"). Stiiknafuulia was introduced by the author Teuvo Pakkala in 1895 and has more or less fallen out of use. Tilpehööri derives phonetically from the Swedish language "tillbehör" (that which is included), and can refer especially to very small items, often found in small plastic bags, needed to put together furniture (say from IKEA) or other kits (model planes for example). Tilpehööri is always clearly useful and needed to something; unnecessary, unneeded or obscure small items are called höhä or sälä.
PeoplePlaceholders for people include the ubiquitous Matti Meikäläinen (male) and Maija Meikäläinen (female), and the relatively less common Anna Malli (literally Anna the Model, but can also be understood as "Give me an example"), Tauno Tavallinen ("Tauno the Ordinary") or Veijo Luuseri ("Veijo the Luser"). In official contexts, the initials N.N. (from Nimi Nimi meaning Name Name) are used.
NumbersPlaceholders for large numbers include ziljoona and biljardi. The latter is a portmanteau of miljardi (109) and biljoona (1012, see Billion). It has an intentional double meaning, as the word also means "billiards", and can also mean 1015.
PlacesThe most common placeholder name for a remote location or a "backwater town" is Takahikiä. Actual locations in Finland that have acquired a similar status include Peräseinäjoki and, to some extent, Pihtipudas, though the latter is mostly associated with the proverbial Pihtiputaan mummo ("the grandmother from Pihtipudas"). They are usually spelled with a small initial letter when they are used as placeholder names. A faraway place can be found in Pippurlandia, which translates as "pepper-land"; "as far as the pepper grows". Other places, whose actual coordinates are unknown and obscure, but which clearly are far away, are Hornantuutti (chute of Hell), Huitsin-Nevada and Vinku-Intia (Whine-India).
Dates and timesObscurity in time can be expressed as viidestoista päivä (fifteenth day). Tuohikuussa pukinpäivän aikaan refers to an obscure future date (literally at Buck's day on Barkember). "Nappisodan aikaan" refers to something that happened a long time ago. (literal meaning is "at the time of the button wars") Another commonly used term is "Vuonna keppi ja kivi" which litelary means "at the year stick-and-stone", but the word keppi (stick) and kivi (stone) may be replaced with other word like nakki (a kind of sausage), miekka (sword), kilpi (shield) or other word that relates to old times.
Military usageIn Finnish military slang, tsydeemi has traditionally been used to refer to a special type of socks worn during wintertime. However, it has become a common generic placeholder word outside the military, possibly due to its phonetic similarity to the aforementioned systeemi.
In the Finnish Defence Forces, placeholder names for soldiers include Nönnönnöö (no meaning, derived from N.N.), Senjanen (rendered from genitive Senjasen expanding into sen-ja-sen (this-and-that), Omanimi ("Private His-name") and Te ("Private You"). Any weapon, device or piece of equipment is called vekotin. This has actually pointed to the abbreviation VKT, Valtion Kivääritehdas (State Rifle Factory), and referred to pikakivääri (rapid fire rifle) VKT23, which originally was called vekotin.
ICT usageIn information technology, a small program which is supposed to do one thing well, is called kilke. This word has a connotation of "makeshift". Software consisting of several kilke may be called tsydeemi (system). Another word for systems like this is judanssi.
A program that takes something as input and turns it into something other useful, but always human-readable information, is called pulautin. This is perhaps most often applied to web services that do this.
ThingsIn French, an unspecified artifact can be:
Schmilblick was a placeholder name in a 60s radio game show for a mystery object discovered by asking questions. It gained fame from a well-known sketch by Coluche and is now commonly used for any strange object.
The strip series les Schtroumpfs, whose characters (blue midgets) used schtroumpf for any object and schtroumpfer for any action, led to the use of those two as common placeholders. This was recast in English as the Smurfs.
Quebec French also has patente, gogosse, cossin and such (most of which have verb forms meaning “to fiddle with”). Acadian French has amanchure.
In Brussels slang, brol is either a heap of random small objects, or a nondescript object of little value.
- Mille et un (one thousand and one) or trente-six (thirty-six) are used for an unknown large number, as in je te l'ai dit trente-six fois (I said it to you umpteen times).
- Des poussières (some dust specks) can be joined to any number or measure to add an indefinite small amount, as in deux mètres et des poussières (two meters and a bit).
PeopleCommon placeholder names for people are
- In slang: Tartampion, Machin, Machin-chose, Mec, Trucmuche, Chose-binne, Patante.
- In proceedings and other more formal settings: "X" (Monsieur X), "Y" etc. (see XYZ Affair)
- Pierre-Paul-Jacques or Pierre-Jean-Jacques is used to designate anyone and everyone at the same time, in the third person, in an informal context. The very common Jean Dupont is used the same way as John Doe is in English.
- Monsieur Tout-le-Monde or Toulemonde (Mr. Everybody) is the average citizen.
- La veuve de Carpentras (the widow from Carpentras, a city in southern France) is the archetypal absolute bear customer in stock exchange literature.
- Pierre et Paul are common characters in jokes. They're often used in mathematical literature about probabilistic theory : many problems begin with Pierre et Paul jouent aux dés (Peter and Paul are throwing dice). The main schools for this science were the French one and the Russian one ; Piotr and Pavel are very common first names in Russian too.
- Trifouillis-les-Oies (small village)
- Perpète, Perpète-les-Oies, Pétaouchnock or Diable vauvert (for a place that is far away)
- Tombouctou (genuine town name in Mali)
In French-speaking Belgium, Outsiplou or even Outsiplou-les-Bains-de-Pieds (Outsiplou-the-footbath) is used for a generic village of Wallonia (there is an actual but little known village named Hout-si-Plout, whose name means "Listen whether it rains" in Walloon), and a hamlet named Hoûte-si-Ploût.
Among French people of North African origin (pieds-noirs), Foun-Tataouine is the generic village, possibly from the village of that name in Tunisia. The Star Wars planet Tatooine most probably owns its name from the same village, as many scenes were filmed nearby.
Far away rural places:
- St-Clinclin, St-Meumeu, or Saint-Glinglin-de-Meumeu (far away rural region)
- Îles Moukmouk (Moukmouk Islands, some far away islands)
Dates and times
To refer to an event that will never occur, it can be set "à la Saint-Glinglin" or "La semaine des quatre jeudis" (the week with four Thursdays, because in the past children didn't have school on Thursday). One can also refer to an event which will never occur saying "tous les trente six du mois", meaning "Every thirty-sixth of the month" There is a well-known judgment about a debtor who committed himself to pay on the day of Saint-Glinglin, his creditor apparently not knowing it doesn't exist. The judge decided the discharge would take place on All Saint's day, since that's the proper moment for honouring Saints who don't have their dedicated day, including fake ones.
GeorgianChichiko Bendeliani may be used for the indefinite person, e.g. when one is telling a story about someone which identification is not necessary or does not affect the sense. It is important to use the full name of Chichiko Bendeliani when used singly, as anything else would make the name too specific and lose the placeholder sense. The second metasyntactic variable would be Bichiko. When used together with Chichiko, last names are not necessary. For example:
"Chichiko Bendeliani was crossing the road", or "Chichiko and Bichiko walk into a bar" to begin a joke.
PlacesJandaba is an indefinite placename for an unspecified (and assumed to be remote) location in Georgia.
GermanGerman also sports a variety of placeholders; some, as in English, contain the element Dings, Dingens (also Dingenskirchen), Dingsda, Dingsbums (sometimes even Dingsdabumsda), cognate with English thing. Also, Kram, Krimskrams, Krempel suggests a random heap of small items, e.g. an unsorted drawerful of memorabilia or souvenirs. In a slightly higher register, Gerät represents a miscellaneous artifact or utensil, or, in casual German, may also refer to an item of remarkable size. The use of the word Teil (part) is a relatively recent placeholder in German that has gained great popularity since the late 1980s. Initially a very generic term, it has obtained specific meaning in certain contexts. For example, to buy ecstasy customers usually simply ask for parts (Teile) without danger of ambiguation. Zeug or Zeugs (compare Dings, can be loosely translated as stuff) usually refers to either a heap of random items that is a nuisance to the speaker, or an uncountable substance or material, often a drug. Finally, Sache, as a placeholder, loosely corresponding to Latin res, describes an event or a condition. Recently, the placeholder Nupsi for something small protruding from something larger has become somewhat popular (via TV comedy, it is believed).
The German equivalent to the English John Doe for males and Jane Doe for females would be Max Mustermann and Erika Mustermann, respectively. For many years, Erika Mustermann was used on the sample picture of German id-cards (“Personalausweis”). In Austria, Max Mustermann is used instead. Sometimes the term Musterfrau is used as the last name placeholder, possibly because it is felt to be more politically correct genderwise. In Cologne, Otto (which can also refer to a gadget) and Gerdi are popular used names for men/boys and women/girls with unknown firstname. Bert also had some popularity as a placeholder for names in the past. For remote or exotic locations, the Germans also use Timbuktu or Buxtehude, as is common in the English language; for towns or villages in the German-speaking world, Kuhdorf or Kuhkaff (lit. cow village, somewhat derogatory) and Kleinkleckersdorf (lit. Little Make-a-mess village), Kleinsiehstenich (lit. Small-can't-see) or Hintertupfing/Hintertupfingen (usually implies that some small, rural and old-fashioned village is meant), in Austria Hinterdupfing are in usage. Herr X. aus Y. an der Z., which derives from usage in newspapers, is used occasionally. Other kadigans such as Bad Sonstwo an der Irgend have been suggested. Otto Normalverbraucher ("Otto Average-Consumer"; this is taken from bureaucratic jargon of post-WW2 food rationing via the name of a 1948 film character played by Gert Fröbe) corresponds to the American "The Joneses", or John Sixpack.
GreekIn Greek mostly two "official" placeholders for people are used, tade (original meaning was 'these here') and deina (which has been a placeholder since antiquity). Eg. 'If Tade comes and asks me, I know what to say'. There is also the name Foufoutos used more jokingly. Unofficially, most cadigans are improvised, derived from pronouns, such as tetoios "such", apotetoios "the from-such", apaftos, o aftos "the that" or o etsi "the like-that". For locations, stou diaolou ti mana "at the devil's mother" serves as a placeholder for a distant place.
Hawaiian Pidgin (English)
HebrewIn Hebrew, the word זה (zeh, meaning 'this') is a placeholder used in place of any noun. The most popular personal name placeholders are מה-שמו (mahshmo) or 'whatsisname' (thus: 'Tell mahshmo to put the zeh on the zeh'), מֹשֶׁה (Moshe = Moses) and יוֹסִי (Yossi, diminutive form of Joseph) for first name, and כֹהֵן (Cohen, the most popular last name in Israel) for last name. However, in ID and credit card samples, the usual name is Israel Israeli for a man and Israela Israeli for a woman (these are actual first and last names).
The traditional terms are Ploni פלוני and his party Almoni אלמוני (originally mentioned in Ruth 4:1). Ploni Almoni also is used in official, contemporary situations. For example, addressing guidelines by Israel postal authorities utilize Ploni Almoni as the addressee.
A vulgar term for an unspecified place mostly popular in the Israel army is פִיזְדֶלוֹך (pizdelokh, formed from the Russian pizda, pussy, and the German and Yiddish Loch = hole). Also quite common is תיז (א)נביא (Tiz (e) Nabi “the prophet’s ass”, from Arabic), and again Timbuktu. A kadigan for a time in the far past is תרפפ"ו (pronounced Tarapapu, which somewhat resembles a year in the Hebrew calendar but is not quite one).
Especially older Ashkenazi speakers often employ the Yiddish placeholders "Chaim Yankel" and "Moishe Zugmir". Buzaglo (a typical Moroccan-Jewish last name) is a placeholder for a simple lower-class citizen. The term Buzaglo test was coined by then-Attorney General Aharon Barak in the 1970s for the proposition that the law should apply with equal leniency (or severity) to a senior public official and to the simplest ordinary citizen.
The suffix -shehu can be added to any question word to indicate something unknown. Thus, ma ('what') > mashehu ('something'); mi ('who') > mishehu ('someone'); eyfo ('where') -> eyfoshehu ('somewhere').
In Hungarian the word izé (a stem of ancient Finno-Ugric heritage) is used, referring primarily to inanimate objects but sometimes also to people, places, concepts, or even adjectives. Hungarian is very hospitable to derivational processes and the izé- stem can be further extended to fit virtually any grammatical category, naturally forming a rich family of derivatives: e.g. izé whatchamacallit (noun), izés whatchamacallit-ish (adjective), izébb or izésebb more whatchamacallit(ish) (comparative adjective), izésen in a whatchamacallitish manner (adverb), izél to whatchamacallit (often meaning: screw up) something (transitive verb), izéltet to cause someone to whatchamacallit (transitive verb), izélget to whatchamacallit continually (often meaning: pester, bother -- frequentative verb), izélődik to whatchamacallit (fool, mess) around (durative verb). (In slang izé and its verbal and nominal derivatives often take on sexual meanings). In addition to its placeholder function, izé is an all-purpose hesitation word, like ah, er, um in English. A word with a similar meaning and use is the word "cucc", usually translated as "stuff", and "bigyó", translated as either "thing"/"thingie" or "gadget".
To name things, Hungarians also use micsoda (whatisit), hogyhívják or hogyishívják (whatitscalled), miafene (whatdaheck), bigyó (thingie), miafasz (whatdafuck, literally "whatthedick" or "whatthepenis").
John Smith (US: John Doe) is the same in Hungarian; Kovács János or Gipsz Jakab (John Smith or Jake Gypsum, or Jakob Gipsch).
Place names: Mucsaröcsöge (ending sounds similar to röfög - to grunt), Bivalybasznád (literally: buffaloyouwouldfuck), Tiszaszétszaród or Jászbivalyhónalja: little village or boonies far out in the countryside, Kukutyin or Piripócs: νillage or small town somewhere in the countryside
IndonesianThere is no single name that is widely accepted, but the name of Indonesian first president, Sukarno can be found in many articles. Sukarno being a Javanese name that's representing about 45% of the Indonesian population, and the fact that his name is one-worded (see Indonesian name), make it popular as example because he's a well know political figure.
Other male names: Joni (Indonesian for Johnny), and Budi (widely used in elementary textbook).
Popular female placeholder names: Sinta, Sri, Dewi
Interlingua placeholders include cosa, meaning 'thing', and typo, meaning 'guy' or 'type'. Cosalia – a collection of things, especially useless things – is a less common placeholder. Like other Interlingua words, placeholders have been selected for internationality.
IrishIn Irish, the common male name "Tadhg" is part of the very old phrase "Tadhg an mhargaidh" (Tadhg of the market-place) which combines features of the English-languages phrases "average Joe" and "man on the street".
This same placeholder name, transferred to English-language usage and now usually rendered as Taig, became and remains a vitriolic derogatory term for an Irish Catholic and has been used by Unionists in Northern Ireland in such bloodthirsty slogans as "If guns are made for shooting, then skulls are made to crack. You’ve never seen a better Taig than with a bullet in his back" and "Don’t be vague, kill a Taig".
Paddy, another derogatory placeholder name for an Irish person, lacks the sharpness of Taig and is often used in a jocular context or incorporated into mournful pro-Irish sentiment (i.e. the songs Poor Paddy On The Railway and Paddy's Lament). By contrast, the term Taig remains a slur in almost every context. "Biddy" (from the name "Bridget") is a female equivalent placeholder name for Irish females.
Also note that the Hiberno-English placeholder names noted above (Yer man, Yer one and Himself/Herself) are long-established idioms derived from the syntax of the Irish language. Yer man and "yer one" are a half-translation of a parallel Irish-language phrase, mo dhuine, literally "my person". This has appeared in songs, an example of which is the The Irish Rover in the words "Yer man, Mick McCann, from the banks of the Bann".
ItalianIn Italian the standard placeholders for inanimate objects are roba (literally "stuff"), coso (related to cosa, thing), affare (literally "business"), and aggeggio (literally "device", "gadget").
A very often used term is also "vattelapesca" ( = "go to catch it" ) , especially for strange objects.
For people, common words are tizio, tipo (literally, "type", in slang), and uno (literally, "one"). The latter is not accompanied by an article, and disappears in presence of a demonstrative (e.g. a guy is un tipo or uno, that guy is quel tipo or just quello). The feminine versions are, respectively, tizia, tipa (in slang), una. In the zone around Venice one can say Piero Pers (Peter the Lost) referring to somebody unknown.
Also there are specific terms (from ancient Roman typical male names) for six unnamed people, coming from the bureaucratic and jurisprudential texts: Tizio, Caio, Sempronio, Mevio, Filano and Calpurnio; but only the first three are used in current speech. They are always used in that order and with that priority (i.e., one person is always Tizio, two people are always Tizio and Caio).
One typical expression for a time very late in the night is alle mille di notte (at one thousand o'clock); fare le ore piccole (to do the little hours) is used when you stay up very late in the night. Alla buon'ora (at the good time) means very early in the morning or, in a laughing tone, finally.
Alle calende greche (on Greek kalendae), un domani (a tomorrow) or similar expressions mean "never". Ad ogni morte di papa (on every death of a pope) means rarely. Il giorno di San Mai (the day of St. Never) means that an event is never going to take place.
For numbers are used cinquantaquattro (54), cinquantaquattromila (54000), diecimila (10000)... For age is used anta (from the final of quaranta (40), cinquanta (50), sessanta (60), settanta (70), ottanta (80), novanta (90)) to mean this band of age: essere sugli anta (to be about ...ty years old) is used.
A place far away and difficult to reach is a casa del diavolo (literally in the devil's house) or, more vulgar, in culo ai lupi (in the ass of wolves); the name of the Sicilian town of Canicattì is also used. Mainly in Sicily, one can say: dove ha perso le scarpe il Signore (where Our Lord lost his shoes) or dove ha perso la camicia Cristo (where Christ lost his shirt).
JapaneseIn Japanese, naninani (なになに, a doubled form of the word nani, meaning what) is often used as a placeholder. It does not necessarily mean a physical object. For example, it is often used to stand in for an omitted word when discussing grammar. Similarly, daredare (だれだれ, doubled form of who) can be used for people, and nantoka nantoka (なんとかなんとか, doubled form of something) as a variant for things. Hoge (ほげ, no literal meaning) has been gaining popularity in the computing world, where it is used much like foo and bar.
nyoro nyoro (literally "tilde tilde") is also a popular placeholder name.
KannadaIn Kannada the placeholder name for a trivial task is kaanji-pinji (these two terms have Tamil origin but used in colloquial Kannada). And placeholder name for a person can be shaat-nayaka (vulgar) (literally "pubic-chief").
KoreanIn Korean, mwomwomwo (뭐뭐뭐, a tripled form of 뭐, which is a short form of 무엇, the word for what) is used in casual speech. Nugunugu and eodieodi (reduplication of who and where, respectively) can be heard as well.
Hong Gildong, a male name, is commonly used as a placeholder name in instructions for filling out forms.
KurdishIn Kurdish the placeholder name for people is Yaro, derived from the word Yar meaning companion, friend, lover or person.
LatinIn Latin the word res (thing) is used. Some Latin legal writers used the name Numerius Negidius as a John Doe placeholder name; this name was chosen in part because it shares its initials with the Latin phrases (often abbreviated in manuscripts to NN) nomen nescio, “I don’t know the name”; nomen nominandum, “name to be named” (used when the name of an appointee was as yet unknown); and non nominatus/nominata, “not named”.
Formal writing in (especially older) Dutch uses almost as much Latin as the lawyer's English, and, for instance, "N.N." was and is commonly used as a "John Doe" placeholder in class schedules, grant proposals, etc.
Emperor Justinian's codification of Roman law follows the custom of using "Titius" and "Seius" as names for Roman citizens, and "Stichus" and "Pamphilus" as names for slaves.
LithuanianA universal placeholder for a person in Lithuanian are the variations of names Jonas (John), Petras (Peter) and more rarely Antanas (Anthony), like Jonas Petraitis for a full male name and Janina Jonienė for a full female name. The names are often used in the examples of form filling.
Probably the best known derogatory placeholder name for a village or a rural town is Bezdonys (an actually existing village). The name literally means "Farting village" in Lithuanian, although the actual origin of the name is Slavonic name of the nearby lake Бездонный (Bezdonniy), meaning "Bottomless". Another also well known derogatory placeholder name for a village or city is Kalabybiškis ("Chiseled Penisdubious Lithuanian village").
MacedonianIn Macedonian џиџе [jeeje] - for one, or џиџи-миџи [jeejee-meejee] for more than one (usually small) object is used. Other words used are: ваквото, таквото, онаквото (in English: "the like this", "the like that"), речи-го (in English: "say-it"), ова-она (in English: "this and that"), and ваму-таму (in English: "here and there")
MalayIn Malay the word anu which may be prefixed with si can be used to refer to a person whose name has eluded the speaker. It can also be used for a generic person as in Mr/Ms So-and-so.
MaoriIn Maori the word taru, literally meaning “long grass” or “weeds” is used.
MarathiIn Marathi the complete generic name (First Middle Surname) for a male is 'Aamajee Gomaajee Kaapse' (आमाजी गोमाजी कापसे) like 'John Doe' in English. The other generic first names for men include 'Somya-Gomya' (सोम्या-गोम्या) like 'Tom-Dick-Harry' in English.
NorwegianIn Norwegian the placeholder names for people are Ola and Kari Nordmann (male and female, respectively).
In formal legal contexts, Peder Ås (occasionally spelled Aas) and Kari Holm are the generic male and female examples. These are often joined by their adversaries Hans Tastad (male) and Marte Kirkerud (female), together with various members of the extended Ås and Holm families. The first names Marte, Lars, and Kari seem to be very common in both of these families. All these people reside and work in the Lillevik ("Small bay") area and most have accounts in Lillevik Sparebank ("Small Bay Savings Bank"). This probably has nothing to do with the Washington law firm of Carey & Lillevik, PLLC.http://www.careylilleviklaw.com/
When referring to unspecified objects, the words "dings" and "greie" is commonly used. Translated to English, they would mean "thingy" or "gadget".
PersianIn Persian, for Places the word فلان جا, for people the word فلانی (in slang: يارو) is used mostly. generic word that's used for calling anything, regardless of which type, is چيز.
PolishIn Polish, the most popular placeholders are to coś (meaning this something), cudo (miracle), dynks (from the German Ding), wihajster (from the German wie heißt er? - what's its name?) and a general placeholder "ten teges" which can also be used as a filled pause. There are also other terms, such as elemelek, pipsztok or psztymulec, but they are much less common. Also used are dzyndzel (equivalent to dynks) and knefel (similar to frob, unknown object that can be adjusted or manipulated).
The generic name for a village or a remote small town is Pipidówka, or its more derogatory version Pipidówa. A vulgar, but frequently used term to describe a small and dull place is Zadupie which is an equivalent of English shithole. Sometimes, although rarely, Pacanów can also be used, which has the same meaning that US Dullsville but is actually a little town in central Poland.
A universal placeholder name for a person is Jan Kowalski (for a man) and Janina Kowalska (for a woman; used less often, sometimes with a different first name). A second unspecified person would be called Nowak, choice of first name being left to the author’s imagination, often also Jan for a man; this surname is unisex. Jan is the most popular male first name in Polish, Kowalski and Nowak are the most popular Polish surnames. In logical puzzles fictitious surnames frequently follow a uniform pattern: they start with consecutive letters of Latin alphabet and are followed by identical root: Abacki, Babacki, Cabacki etc. for men, Abacka, Babacka, Cabacka etc. for women. In official documents however, an unidentified person’s name is entered as NN (abbreviation of Nazwisko Nieznane – name unknown, or Nomen Nescio).
A rare placeholder name for a time and date w grudniu po południu (in a December afternoon) is also used.
PortugueseCommon placeholders for objects in Brazilian Portuguese are treco, troço, bagulho, lance, coisa and negócio, among others. In European Portuguese coiso or cena are often used. Placeholder names for people are usually Fulano (optionally surnamed de Tal), Sicrano and Beltrano, and the corresponding feminines (Fulana, Sicrana, Beltrana). Gajo is used in Portugal. João das Couves, Zé das Couves, José dos Anzóis or Zé da Silva are also used, the feminine being Maria (instead of José, which is also often abbreviated to Zé). João Ninguém or Zé Ninguém are used for someone who is unimportant. Cascos-de-rolha (cork hooves) is used to designate a remote and uninteresting location. Onde o vento faz a curva (where the wind turns around) or Onde Judas perdeu as botas (where Judas lost his boots) is a very far away place. Cu-do-conde (Count's ass) or Cu-de-Judas (Judas' ass) are used for the same as "Cascos-de-Rolha", but are considered more un-polite. Also, like English fuck described above, both Brazilian Portuguese and European Portuguese have the offensive general-purpose porra (a curse word that in European Portuguese means "club" and refers to the penis — thus not being considered so offensive —, while in Brazilian Portuguese is a short form for "sperm"), being a placeholder for objects, actions, adjectives and other.
QuechuaIn Quechua, there is a noun radical na (whatever) to which verbal (nay = to do whatever), agentive (naq = the doer of whatever), or affective (nacha = cute little thing) suffixes may be added.
RomanianIn Romanian, chestie is used for objects and concepts, cutare for both persons and things. Cutărică, tip (masculine) or tipă (feminine) are sometimes used for persons. Drăcie ("devilish thing") is a derogative placeholder name for objects (but the derogative nuance is not diabolical, it may simply suggest unfamiliarity or surprise, rather like the adjective "newfangled" in English). More emphatic form used as a question, "ce drăcia dracului?" (lit. "what the devil's devilish [thing]?", similar to "what the hell").
Other expressions used include cum-îi-zice / cum-se-cheamă ("what's-it-called"), nu-știu-cum/ce/care/cine/când ("I-don't-know-how/what/which/who/when"), cine știe ce/cum/care/cine/când" ("who-knows-what/how/which/who/when), and un din-ăla (masculine) or o-din-aia (feminine) ("one of those things").
Placeholders for numbers include zeci de mii ("tens of thousands"), often contracted to j'de mii (or even țâșpe mii; from -șpe, an informal numeral suffix equivalent to "-teen" in "sixteen", attached to ț, a Romanian letter sometimes seen as "extra", analogue to the English "a zillion") and also mii şi mii ("thousands and thousands"). Diverse colloquial formulas for "a lot" exist, including o căruță (lit. "a cart-full"), o grămadă'' (lit. "a pile"), "căcălău" (vulgar; it doesn't mean anything other than "(really) lots of (smth.)"; it sounds both scatological and augumentative in Romanian; comparable with "shit-load") or the poetic "câtă frunză, câtă iarbă" (lit. "as many leaves and blades of grass", referring to a large number of people).
Cucuieţii-din-Deal is a name for obscure and remote places. La mama dracului or la mama naibii ("where the devil's mother dwells", lit. "at the devil's mother") also means a very remote place.
ThingsIn Russian, among the common placeholder names are это самое (this particular [object]), штука (thing; diminutive forms also exist), ботва (leafy tops of root vegetables), фигня (crud) and хуйня (in mat slang; roughly translatable as something dickish), хреновина (). A term for something awkward, bulky and useless is бандура (bandura, an old Ukrainian musical instrument, big and inconvenient to carry). A kadigan for a monetary unit is тугрик (Tögrög, the monetary unit of Mongolia).
PeopleIn Russian, there's a special placeholder personal name Imyarek (from Church Slavonic expression Imya Rek meaning having said a name) which is used (sometimes ironically) to a person whose real name is unknown.
Placeholders for personal names include variations on names Иван (Ivan), Пётр (Pyotr/Peter), and Сидор (Sidor), such as Иван Петрович Сидоров (Ivan Petrovich Sidorov) for a full name, or Иванов (Ivanov) for a last name. Василий Пупкин (Vasiliy Pupkin) is also (jokingly) used as a generic name.
Words like парень, товарищ, бродяга, трудяга, чувак, друг, подруга, молодой человек, девушка, гражданин, уважаемый, дорогой all have their own meaning but may be and are used as second-person kadigans as well.
- One of the most commonly used phrases is у чёрта на куличках (lit. "at the devil's allotment"), which is roughly equal to English "at the world's end" and "in the back of beyond".
- Various city names are often employed as placeholders. For instance, to denote a remote, obscure place, Тьмутаракань (Tmutarakan, an ancient Crimean city) is used.
- The capital of the Russian backwoods is Урюпинск (Uryupinsk, a town in central Russia), although recently Бобруйск (Babruysk, a Belarussian city), has gained its popularity in the Russian Internet community.
- Куда Макар телят не гонял ("There, where Makar didn't take calfs"), meaning "far-far away" or "somewhere, you won't like".
- In some occasions in literature (a novel by famous Russian and Ukrainian writer Nikolai Gogol) unknown places are referred to as ...ское место (featuring a widespread adjective ending ской).
- In music (Zoopark discography) Latin N is sometimes used as a placeholder for the actual name of the site, e.g. город N ("city N").
- На хуй, meaning to hell or anywhere out of here (literally: onto a dick)
- В жопу and в пизду meaning deep to hell (literally: into an ass, into a vagina)
- A derogatory kadigan for a remote and uninteresting town is Мухосранск (Mukhosransk, "Fly's Shit Town").
Dates and times
- После дождичка в четверг ("right after rain on Thursday"), referring to indefinite time in future, or to something that will never happen.
- Когда рак на горе свистнет ("as soon as a crayfish on the next hill whistles"), meaning the same as после дождичка в четверг, and being sometimes combined with it.
- Ни свет ни заря ("no lights, no dawn"), засветло, спозаранку and so on, speaking of the very early time in the morning.
SlovakIn Slovak, the most common placeholders are oné (originally an indefinite pronoun) or tento (originally a definite pronoun, close deixis) which can be used for both things and names. The most common placeholder for a full personal name is Janko Mrkvička or Jožko Mrkvička (lit. "Johnny/Joe Little Carrot"). The standard placeholder for a place name is Horná Dolná (lit. "Upper Lower", a reference to a common type of village name which takes the form of a feminine adjective ending in -á, e.g. Terchová). It is often used in derogatory fashion to indicate a tiny and remote village (compare US English Hicksville). Dzindzík is used as a placeholder for (control) elements of various devices. It is often used interchangeably with bazmek (derived from Hungarian "bazd meg" meaning "go fuck yourself") which can also be used to refer to entire devices or machines.
ThingsCacharro is generally used for objects and/or devices around the kitchen. "Bicho" , a pejorative term, (from the Latin bestius-bestia) is used when the specific animal species is unknown.
PeoplePlaceholder names in the Spanish language have a pejorative or derogatory feeling to them. Fulano/a, (from the Arabic fulán meaning whomever), (the female version Fulana should be used carefully as it also means "prostitute"). Mengano (from the Arabic man kán –quien sea-whomever). Perengano (from the combination of the very common last name of Perez and Mengano). Zutano (from the Castilian word citano from the Latin scitanus "known"). All placeholder words are also used frequently in diminutive form, Fulanito/a, Menganito/a, Perenganito/a or Zutanito/a.
Numberstropecientos ("trope hundred"), chorrocientos or chorromil'' are used for big numbers. "pico" or "algo" can be added for approximations, for time ("las cuatro y pico" or "las cuatro y algo" for an undefined time between 4:00 and 5:00) or quantity ("treinta y pico" for thirtysomething);
Spanish (Latin America)Ciclano and Esperancejo are used in Cuban Spanish.
Feria, thus turning "thirty and change" into "treinta y feria" is used in Mexican Spanish.
Carajo is commonly used only among Central and South American Spanish speakers when referring to an unknown and/or unpleasant place, hence vete pa'l carajo(go to el carajo) may translate as "go to hell" or "get lost" in English.
Mexican Spanish speakers use the words chingadera ("fuckery") or madre (lit. Mother), not to be used in polite circumstances, also using the word mierda which in most of the contexts has the same function as the word 'shit' in English, the word huey (from buey) used between young people to refer each other.
Argentinian Coso (Thing) is used for a generic physical object, usually replaces a noun when the speaker doesn't remember the name (i.e. Pasame el coso ese que esta en la mesa, Hand me that thing on the table). Also Chirimbolo (Trinket, Tchotche), Pendorcho (Small object, possibly a fastener or small mechanical device). Pirifilar los rembos (To perform a technical sounding action Pirifilar onto devices called rembos)
In Chilean Spanish the word hue'ón (from huevón, from hueva, a euphemism for testicle) is often used when referring to unspecified individuals or friends in a casual context. Also, huevón is considered an insult when used unproperly. The word hue'á (from huevada) is used to refer to unspecified actions or objects. Another group of placeholders is weon (male person, weona (female person) and wea (thing).
ThingsFor a generic thing vaina is used for things not well known, but it indicates anger or lost of temper.
PeopleJuan perez (John Doe, Perez being a common surname, like Smith)
Argentina: Fulano, Mengano and Zutano. Placeholder names for generic people, usually used in that order if one two or three are needed.
Argentina: NN, No nominado (Unnamed, used in police reports, famously used for unidentified bodies found during the dirty war.
Argentina: Magoya Non-existent person used sarcastically ("Que te ayude magoya", may magoya help you, meaning: You are on your own)
Argentina: Mandrake Magician with supernatural powers. (No lo arregla ni mandrake, Not even Mandrake can fix it, usu. applied to a economic conundrum) (No soy Mandrake, I'm not Mandrake Meaning: Explain yourself I can't read your mind)
For small children or young people Colombians normally use to call children, chino/a (as in Chinese), pelao/á (a more vague form of the also used pelado), sardino/a (Spanish for sardines (to imply little fish). In Argentina Pendejo means small children or somebody very young. (From pendejo=pubic hair, something small) (Note that this word has a completely different meaning in Mexico).
Juanito, is an hypocoristic of the name Juan, Juanito is used to refer to a small school age boy, and its usually used in jokes to refer to the smart mouth kid who is the center of the joke. Pepito/a (little dot) is also used in the context of jokes often, Jaimito in Argentina.
Marica, (faggot), is a placeholder name popular in the Caribbean Region, although its derogatory, marica is often used in the north and not as an insult, but more in the context dude would be used, and people do not respond angrily at this, as is believed that if you do get mad, is because you are in fact gay.
For older people for whom one has respect, Don or Doña can be used without a name to refer to someone important, also sumercé is used in this manner.
Cochinchina, an actual term used to refer to various southern regions in Vietnam, is used commonly to refer to a remote and extremely far place, and most likely non-existential, it is also commonly place after China and at the end in a list of remote places or to mean "here and everywhere" (aquí, en la China, y en la Conchinchina).
La loma de la mierda: (Lit. The hill of the shit) A very remote place (Argentina, Vulgar). La loma del orto (Lit. The hill of the anus) (Also vulgar)
La concha de la lora: (Argentina, Vulgar), Lit. The female parrot's vagina) An unspecified, possibly remote place, usually used as an insult, (The speaker commands someone to go there). Plumas verdes (Green feathers, a more polite euphemism for Concha de la lora)
Irse al Carajo (Argentina, vulgar) To leave, to behave in an unacceptable manner,(i.e. cross the line))
SwedishSwedish has a large vocabulary of placeholders: Sak, grej, pryl, mojäng/moj (from French moyen) and grunka are the neutral words for thing. Some plural nouns are grejsimojs, grunkimojs, grejs and tjofräs, which correspond to thingamabob, and the youth loan word stuff, which is pronounced with the Swedish u. Apparat (or, more slangy, mackapär) more specifically refers to a complex appliance of some kind, much like the German Gerät. More familiarly or when openly expressing low interest, people use tjafs or trams (drivel) and skräp or krams (rubbish). Like in English, various words for feces can be used: skit (shit) and bajs (poop - often anglified by youth into bice) are standard, well known local variations are mög, bös and dret. Vadhannuhette and vaddetnuhette correspond to whatshisname and whatchamacallit respectively, except that they use the past tense. Det där du vet means "that thing you know". Den och den (that and that) corresponds to so and so. Gunk may refer to any fairly large quantity of unwanted substance or objects of varied or indeterminate identity, much like the English "junk".
Place names in Swedish are colorful: Someplace far away can be called Tjotaheiti (which is derived from "to Tahiti") or Långtbortistan, Farawaystan, a play on -stan created in the Swedish edition of Donald Duck. Häcklefjäll is a commonly used as a name for a generic remote village, which is actually a synonym for the Icelandic volcano Hekla.
The common swede is referred to as Jan Banan ("Banana Ian") or Medel-Svensson. Medel is Swedish for medium or average, while Svensson is a common Swedish surname, which is often used to express genericness or mundaneness. Common first names used as placeholders are Kalle for boys and Lisa for girls, Anna and Maria for women, Johan and Anders for men.
TurkishTurkish has many colorful kadigans. "Falan" seems to be borrowed from Arabic, and comes in variations like "filanca" (what’s his name) and "falan filan" (stuff, etc.). "Ivır zıvır" is a common kadigan for "various stuff". Kadigans for persons exist in abundance, one example being "Sarı Çizmeli Mehmet Ağa" ("Mehmet Ağa with yellow boots") which generally is used to mean pejoratively "unknown person". In addition, otherwise meaningless words such as "zımbırtı" and "zamazingo" are used similarly to the English words "gadget" and "gizmo", but not necessarly related to technology.
VietnameseIn Vietnamese, Nguyễn Văn A and Trần Thị B are usually used as placeholder names for a male and female, respectively, due to the ubiquity of the family names Nguyễn and Trần and middle names Văn and Thị in Vietnamese.
WelshIn Welsh, the word bechingalw has been used, meaning whatdyoucallit and beth'na, meaning that thing.
UbykhOne of the kadigans in Ubykh, zamsjada, may be related to another word meaning useless.
YiddishIn Yiddish, der zach is often used, similar to the German die Sache above. Stand-up comic David Steinberg did a routine about his attempt to identify an object, based only on his father’s description of it as "In Yiddish, we used to call it der zach".
The Talmudic placeholder names Ploni and Almoni (see under Hebrew) are also used; more specifically Yiddish placeholder names are Chaim Yankel (Yankel is the Yiddish diminutive of Jacob/Yaaqov) and Moishe Zugmir (literally: Moses Tell-Me).
YorubaIn Yoruba, Lagbaja and Temedu are the most common placeholder names.
Moore (Burkina Faso)Raogo (male) and Poko (female) are common place holder names used in proverbs as well as stories.
- Espy, W., An Almanac of Words at Play (Clarkson Potter, 1979) ISBN 0-517-52090-7
- Flexner, S. B. and Wentworth, H., A Dictionary of American Slang; (Macmillan, 1960)
- Watson, Ian, "Meet John Doe: stand-ins", section 3.7 in Cognitive Design (Ph.D. dissertation, Rutgers University, 2005).
doohickey in German: Platzhaltername
doohickey in French: Pantonymie
doohickey in Dutch: Ding
doohickey in Russian: Имярек
doohickey in Chinese: 無名氏