Whovianisms


This week Whovian Leap takes a look at the vocabulary of Doctor Who.

There are countless words and expressions specific to the Whoniverse, whose real meaning only a Whovian can fully appreciate. Turns of phrase which may mean nada to a non-fan, but for those in the Whovian loop are loaded with significance. 

Take ‘crotchety’, an obscure adjective hardly in use today. But for fans it is synonymous with the First Doctor –  ‘a crotchety old man’. Likewise, we all know who ‘the cosmic hobo’ is and what is meant by a ‘wheezing groaning’ sound. Such examples owe a lot to Target novels and Terrance Dicks, who penned so many of them. These novelisations boosted the word power of young fans back in the Seventies just as Harry Potter does with today’s young readers. We have all seen that holiday snap of Steven Moffat as a child (above) as he devours a Target novel. Target surely played no small part in turning him into the master scribe that he is today.

‘Hiatus’, how could I not mention that dreaded word that scarred us so deeply in the Eighties. But that enforced eighteen month break opened our eyes to how much we loved Doctor Who and transformed us into even more hard-core fans. 

Let’s take a look at some “JNTisms” (Classic Series producer John Nathan-Turner above) – ‘Stay tuned’, “The memory cheats” and “barkers”. The first, a catchphrase encouraging us to keep on watching the show. The second, a defence of his episodes against some old school fans who compared them unfavourably with earlier adventures. The third, his own term to describe crazy Whovians.

‘Carrot juice’ simply overflows with significance, those final words uttered by the Sixth Doctor before being ungraciously removed by BBC bosses. Regenerations are always powerful moments and any language associated with them will inevitably stick in our hearts and minds – “It feels different this time” or “I don’t want to go”. 

What about the Doctor’s catchphrases, such as “When I say run, run!”, “Reverse the polarity”, “Brave heart”, “Fantastic” and “Allons-y”? Planet names may mean nothing to the uninitiated but for us ‘Skaro’, ‘Mondas’, ‘Gallifrey’ are as real as our own Sol III. 


Nu Who gives us “timey-wimey”, “Spoilers!” and not to mention ‘Capaldeyes’, a relatively recent addition to Whovian vocabulary. It boasts page after page of Google search results, popularised by Bonnie Burton on CNET.  

But language evolves, even in the Whoniverse. When we hear “Kasterborous” and “The Memory Cheats”, do we think of a constellation and JNT, or a top Doctor Who site and a major podcast?

For a show which has lasted for over fifty years, it would probably need a whole book to cover all of our favourite ‘Whovianisms’, be it the Fourth’s “wonderful butler” or the Seventh’s “unlimited rice pudding”. A subject far too big for a single post, so how should I conclude it? I could leave you with a “Go forward in all your beliefs!” or just dematerialise with a simple “Vworp Vworp!”…..
   
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