Whopperjawed

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17 comments on this post.
  1. Owen Lorion:

    Growing up in Oregon in the 50s and 60s, I recall “all whopperjawed” being used, along with thingamajiggy and such, as one of those inexact terms used for things that probably have a name, but you don’t know or can’t remember what it is. Usually it referred to something being decidedly lopsided in some hard to describe way, but I vaguely recall it also being used to refer to the jaws of a plumber’s wrench when they couldn’t line up properly because of obstructions.

  2. h.s. gudnason:

    I learned the word during a Gothic language class from someone who grew up in central Indiana. No idea how the subject arose.

  3. RJ:

    I grew up in southwestern Ohio, and the word was used all the time in my family to mean that something was out-of alignment, warped, uneven, off-kilter, lopsided, off-center, or otherwise not positioned (or built) “correctly,” relative to an established norm. This was especially true, as was mentioned in the Word Detective’s response above, when the defect resulted in two component pieces not fitting together properly, as in carpentry. But I never heard it used to describe people, only things.

  4. RJ:

    And by the way, we pronounced it “whopperjawed.” (No ‘m’)

  5. Rebecca:

    In the deep southeastern US it is most decidedly pronounced with an ‘m’, as “whomperjawed” or even “whumperjawed”. The meaning is akin to catawampus (or caddywhompus or cattywhumpus) and I’ve always heard it used in the same way. Maybe that’s where the ‘m’ sound comes in, from the tie with catawampus?

  6. Chris Cook:

    From Texas…parents used to say it all the time. I thought it was a white country thing. It means its crooked.

  7. DY:

    (From SC Kansas, from someone who comes originally from NW Missouri)I stuck a bunch of candy “Whoppers” in my jaw and asked a coworker, “What’s this?”. Then told her I was “Whopperjawed”. In response I got a blank, “what the heck are talking about” stare. She’d never heard of the term. I explained that it meant askew or out of line. Then I started searching online to make sure I wasn’t using it incorrectly. That’s how I wound up here.

  8. Jenny:

    When I was groing up my grand parents lived in a small southern town called clarkton, where they used words like whopperjawed. When I asked them they explained to ke that it ment crooked or, if you were referring to a person, queer. So I have no idea what the person you heard meant but there are several variations and definitions of the word whopperjawed so I reckon she meant don’t get all queer (or crooked) on me. :)

  9. Theresa:

    I grew up in South Central PA near Lancaster and we use this word. In fact, I used it today and someone from the NYC metro area had no idea what it meant. We pronounced it ‘whopperjawed’ meaning askew. ‘The thermos lid got all whopperjawed and now I cannot get it off.’

    I have also heard it used in reference to people such as ‘don’t go getting all whopperjawed on me’ meaning don’t become askew or off balance.

    Interesting that it seems to be most common in places where there are Amish – PA, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois. Although I think I heard it reading Mark Twain’s books and letters. I loved the word as a onomatopoeia that conveys it’s meaning by sounding crooked.

  10. Connie:

    I grew up east central Indiana heard this term frequently from my mother whopperjawed, and cattiwhapus, from her use I thought it meant out of alignment, however cattiwhappus could mean diagonal when she used the term.

  11. Charles:

    I found myself the object of ridicule when I used the word “whoppy-jawed” in the presence of my teenaged daughter. I have to assume I picked it up from some of my very rural white relatives in Georgia. As I use it, it means “knocked out of alignment” — the “whop” suggests an impact. My co-worker from Oklahoma says he learned it as “whompy-jawed.”

  12. Vector:

    Ohio northeast and southwest; it is used to describe misalignment.

  13. Lisa Lenzo:

    My husband used “whopper-jawed” last night to describe one of the screens he just finished and has to do over, because it is misaligned. We did not use this word in the inner city neighborhood in Detroit where I grew up. My parents, who grew up in NYC, never used this word, either. My husband is from rural Indiana, near several Amish communities. The head of the construction crew he worked on in high school used the word often.

  14. Lili Kissinger:

    I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and never heard this term until I came to Indiana. I thought it was another one of those colorful, bucolic terms that only people like my farmer in-laws used. Oddly, my father was originally from downstate Illinois but never used those terms. Since his father was the owner of a small-town newspaper, I assume the family learned to use more formal language from an early age. Having grown up to be a college-level writing instructor, I have spent many hours editing these interesting words from student papers.

  15. Joel Rosen:

    Oppressed was a slang term used to describe a faulty gear on the M61 Vulcan Machine Gun in 1949 by a General Electric engineer Edgar Rosen. The gear solved the jamming of the weapon leading to the production of a devastating weapons still used today
    It was given to E. Rosen upon his retirement from G E in 1960 and I have it

  16. Alison Camp:

    Growing up in Oregon, my family used ‘whopperjawed’ (meaning crooked or ill-fitting) all the time, often to blank stares from other people. I have defined it many times to friends and acquaintances. It is so interesting to read this thread, as my father was born and raised in Indiana. He appears to have been the importer of this term to my hometown in Oregon.

  17. Adam C.:

    I grew up in the Chicago suburbs, with a mom who grew up in Indiana. We used whopperjawed (no “m”) to mean askew/crooked/or broken in some way implying a mismatch between two sides. e.g., a stuck zipper might be “whopperjawed”.

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