Veeblefetzer

Veeblefetzer

Veeblefetzer is a word usually used facetiously as a label for any obscure or complicated objects, such as automobile parts, computer code and model railroad equipment.

A 19th-century Yiddish language slang word, possibly with limited usage, is generally accepted as the origin. In German, "fetzer" is any contraption, while "veeble" is a likely corruption of "webel," a term for weaving. Textile mills of that period were crammed with loud, complicated and wildly active machinery.

During the 1940s, the inventor Alfred J. Gross, a pioneer of mobile communications, made an association of the word with modern technology. Gross invented the walkie-talkie and developed cordless remote telephone signaling (the precursor to the pager). He was the father of the CB radio, and for his CB handle he used the pseudonym Phineas Thadeus Veeblefetzer.

A few years later, Harvey Kurtzman brought the word into popular usage in his comic book Mad. In the Kurtzman and Will Elder satire of the comic strip Gasoline Alley, titled "Gasoline Valley!", in Mad 15 (September 1954), the character Skizziks opens a shop to repair cracked veeblefetzers. In subsequent issues, Kurtzman used the word for spoofs of big business with North American Veeblefetzer featured in satires of in-house company newsletters, corporate annual reports and more.

Popular culture

  • In the 1966 film Mad Monster Party?, co-scripted by Harvey Kurtzman, a veeblefetzer display is damaged in the store near the beginning of the film.
  • In the 1978 short film The Magnificent Major, Daisy Bunsen (Tisha Campbell) uses a veeblefetzer, resembling something like a dish with three metal bars coming to a point at the top, to travel to an illiterate future.
  • In the 1985 film Reel Horror, "veebelfetzers" are mentioned in a sing-along song that is supposedly hypnotizing a movie theatre audience.
  • In the "Warren" episode of Space Ghost Coast to Coast, guest Gary Owens, who voiced the original Space Ghost, tells Zorak, "Hand me that veeblefetzer, will you?"
  • In his autobiography, Adventures of a No-name Actor, actor Marco Perella describes a commercial audition for a company he nicknamed "Hydrogenated Veeblefetzer International."
  • In Don Rosa's Donald Duck comic "Recalled Wreck" from 1987, Donald mentions how he has built his car with various spare parts, and a veeblefetzer.
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