10 Ultra-Violent Slang Terms from ‘A Clockwork Orange’

Clockwork Stem

In his iconic novel A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess creates a dystopian world in which youths down milk doused with narcotics before committing random acts of ultra-violence.

He’s also created a language. Nadsat-talk, or just Nadsat, is a mix of Russian, German, French, and Cockney influences, as well as almost every linguistic trick in the book, including blends (chumble, possibly “chatter” and “mumble”), reduplication (baddiwad for “bad”), nounification (warbles for “songs”), shortenings (guff, “to laugh,” from guffaw), and pure invention (cables for “blood vessels” and flatblock for “home”).

On what would have been his 99th birthday, we take a look 10 words invented by Burgess in A Clockwork Orange.

clockwork orange

“So I creeched louder still, creeching: ‘Am I just to be like a clockwork orange?’”

In addition to being the title of a book within the book, a clockwork orange refers to someone who has been made to work “like clockwork,” that is, mechanically and without free will.

As for the title’s origin, Burgess himself has a couple of explanations. In The New Yorker, he writes that he first heard the expression “as queer as a clockwork orange” before World War II in a pub in London, and that it’s “an old Cockney slang phrase, implying a queerness or madness so extreme as to subvert nature.” The phrase also juxtaposes “a thing living, growing, sweet, juicy, to a cold dead artifact.”

In Joysprick: An Introduction to the Language of James Joyce, Burgess notes that when he “wrote a novel called A Clockwork Orange, no European reader saw that the Malay word for ‘man’ — orang — was contained in the title.” The Malay orang is also contained within orangutan, which translates as “man of the wilderness.”


“There was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie, and Dim.”

Droog, a young hooligan or gang member, is the one Burgess neologism that has made it into the Oxford English Dictionary, at least so far. The word comes from the Russian drug, meaning “friend.” It may be no coincidence that drug is also a homograph of the English drug since pharmaceuticals play a large part in the novel.


“‘Oh I shall go home. Back to my pee and em.’
‘Your — ?’ He didn’t get nadsat-talk at all, so I said:
‘To my parents in the dear old flatblock.'”

Nadsat is another Russian-influenced invented slang term. Meaning “teenage,” the word comes from the Russian suffix for “teen,” nadtsat.


“I read this with care, my brothers, slurping away at the old chai, cup after tass after chasha, crunching my lomticks of black toast dipped in jammiwan and eggiweg.”

Reduplication is another device Burgess uses in Nadsat-speak. The childish singsong of words such as eggiweg, jammiwam, and punchipunching are a chilling apposition against the depraved ultra-violence of Alex and his droogs.

moloko plus

“I took the large moloko plus to one of the little cubies that were all around this mesto, there being like curtains to shut them off from the main mesto, and there I sat down in the plushy chair and sipped and sipped.”

A moloko plus is milk spiked with drugs. Moloko is a direct translation from Russian for “milk.” (Mesto, by the way, is Russian for “place.”) Like eggiweg and jammiwam, moloko plus sets up the childish (milk) against the depraved (hard drugs).

Moloko plus is also called knify moloko — “There we were, a-waiting and peeting away at the the old knify moloko, and you had not turned up” — or “milk with knives in it,” which is made to “sharpen you up and make you ready for a bit of dirty twenty-to-one.”

What does all of this mean? Knives refer to amphetamines, according to the introduction of the book, but perhaps also plays on the term spiked, containing drugs or alcohol. Peet comes from pit, the Russian word for “drink,” while being sharp may be an allusion to being hyper-aware and sped up, an effect of amphetamines. Dirty twenty-to-one might refer to gang violence involving sexual assault.

Other fictional drug names in the novel include synthemesc, vellocet, and drencrom. Synthemesc might come from “synthetic mescaline” while vellocet might play on the name of a motorcycle company, evoking speed and velocity. Drencrom might be an alteration of adrenochrome, a drug that causes “thought disorder, derealization, and euphoria.”


“Dim put on a hound-and-horny look of evil, saying: ‘I don’t like you should do what you done then.’”

Hound-and-horny seems to be a kind of invented rhyming slang term that means “corny.” Other such terms include, for “money,” pretty polly (“If you need pretty polly, you take it”) and cutter, which might come from bread and butter, meaning livelihood. Luscious glory meaning “hair” (“my luscious glory was a wet tangled cally mess”) might come from crowning glory.


“I wanted to be sick, so I got out of bed all trembly so as to go off down the corridor to the old vaysay. But behold, brothers, the door was locked.”

Vaysay is Nadsat slang for the restroom, coming from the French pronunciation of the British English W.C., or water closet. Other French-derived slang terms include sinny, which comes from cinéma or ciné, and tass from tasse, “cup.”


“Why this sudden shilarny for being the big bloated capitalist?”

Shilarny, meaning “concern,” seems to be a purely invented with perhaps an Irish influence. Another invented word with an unclear origin is sharp, slang for “woman.”

barry place

“Next it’s going to be the barry place and all my work ruined.”

The barry place, or prison, refers to the bars of a cell. Another slang term for jail is stripey hole, again for the image of prison bars.


“This is the real weepy and like tragic part of the story beginning, my brothers and only friends, in Staja (State Jail, that is) Number 84F.”

Staja is another term for jail, a blend of “State Jail,” but also reminiscent of Stalag, a prisoner-of-war camp in Germany. Stalag is a shortening of Stammlager, which comes from Kriegsgefangenen-Mannschafts-Stammlager, which translates roughly as “main POW camp.”

Other German-derived words include shlaga, a club or a bat, which comes from Schlager, to hit, and tashtook (“He’d taken a big snotty tashtook from his pocket”), which comes from Taschentuch, “handkerchief.”

Word Soup

Welcome to the first installment of our new series, Word Soup! While the television show The Soup brings you “the strange, obscure and totally unbelievable moments in pop culture, celebrity news and reality TV,” Word Soup will bring you those strange, obscure, unbelievable (and sometimes NSFW) words.

Apparition American

Detective Kate Beckett: “If you say ghost, I’m sending you home.”
Richard Castle (writer/consultant): “Apparition American.”

“Demons,” Castle, October 24, 2011

Apparition American plays on terms such as African American and Asian American. Just as African American is an alternative to  black, Apparition American is an alternative to ghost.

bump it

Lisa: “You started dressing like a tacky suburban girl. You bumped it.”

“Halloween,” Suburgatory, October 26, 2011

Bumping it refers to adding volume to one’s hair with a “hair volumizing insert” called the Bumpit, a style presumably often worn by girls and women living in the suburbs.


Jeff: “You probably just Britta’d the test results.”

Britta: “Wait, are people using my name to mean ‘make a small mistake’?”

Jeff: “Yes.”

“Horror,” Community, October 27, 2011

An eponym is “a word or name derived from the name of a person.” Another example is bowdlerize, “to expurgate in editing by expunging words or passages considered offensive or indelicate,” named for Thomas Bowdler, “who published an expurgated edition of Shakespeare in 1818.”

End O’Potamia

Jon Stewart: “It’s over! It’s finally over! Oh man, let me say this – woohoo!”

October 24, 2011, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

End O’Potamia refers to President Obama’s announcement that the U.S. will pull troops out of Iraq by the end of the year, thereby ending the U.S. occupation in Iraq. End O’Potamia plays on another term, Mess O’Potamia, coined by Stewart in 2003 and referring to the war in Iraq. The term is a blend of mess and Mesopotamia, an ancient region of Iraq.


Marcy: “Your house has no style. You need a fluffer.”

“Halloween, Part 1,” American Horror Story, October 26, 2011

While the original definition of fluffer is, shall we say, NSFW, a fluffer in real estate terms refers to house fluffer, according to Word Spy, “a decorator who recommends improvements and renovations designed to maximize a house’s sale price.”

Jesus Ween

News announcer: “Halloween is less than two weeks away, and a Christian group in Texas is promoting a faith-based alternative to the usual sexy costumes we see, evil zombies, and other ungodly characters, as they call them. Their alternative is something called Jesus Ween. The group is asking Christians to dress in white and hand out Bibles instead of candy.”

October 26, 2011, The Colbert Report

In the word Jesus Ween, Jesus takes the place of the hallow in Halloween. However, hallow already means “holy person, saint,” while een is a form of even, or evening.

Statler and Waldorf

Jon Stewart: “For the guys who bear a good amount of responsibility for getting us into this clusterfuck [the war in Iraq], to go all Statler and Waldorf on the exit – unacceptable!”

October 24, 2011, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

Statler and Waldorf refer to two Muppets characters, “two ornery, disagreeable old men” who spend the show “heckling the rest of the cast from their balcony seats.” To go Statler and Waldorf means to behave as such, heckling and criticizing others’ actions from a safe distance.


Pat Robertson: “You got somebody who’s really weird, and his sexual orientation is he likes to have sex with ducks, is he protected under hate crime?”

Jon Stewart: “First of all, it’s called a turfucken. Second of all, if the sex with the duck is consensual, then I would say yes he’s protected.”

October 25, 2011, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

Turfucken is a play on turducken, “a dish consisting of a deboned turkey stuffed with a deboned duck that has been stuffed with a small deboned chicken, and also containing stuffing.”


Snooki: “If I were to wear two bras, this is what it would like. It just like pushes them and makes them look volumptuous, if that’s the word.”

October 25, 2011, Jimmy Kimmel Live

Presumably Snooki means voluptuous here, but has inadvertently blended voluptuous and lump, perhaps thinking of lady lumps.

Now we want you on the action. If you see any Word Soup-worthy words, let us know on Twitter with the hashtag #wordsoup. Your word and Twitter handle might appear right here!

Unmapped Words: Portmanteaus

Wordnik’s motto is “All the words, and everything about them, for everybody,” and when we say “all the words,” we mean all the words, especially the ones that aren’t included in traditional dictionaries — words that have been left off the previous maps of English.  Today we’re taking a look at portmanteaus.

Portmanteau originally meant “a case used in journeying for containing clothing: originally adapted to the saddle of a horseman, and therefore nearly cylindrical and of flexible make.” Now it’s also come to refer to a word “made by combining two words, stories, etc, in the manner of a linguistic portmanteau.” Portmanteau words are also known as blends.

Lewis Carroll was the first to use the word in this sense in Through the Looking Glass, in which “Humpty Dumpty explains to Alice the coinage of the unusual words in Jabberwocky, where ‘slithy’ means ‘lithe and slimy’ and ‘mimsy’ is ‘flimsy and miserable’.”  Humpty Dumpty says, “You see it’s like a portmanteau — there are two meanings packed up into one word.”

Some portmanteaus have become so common, one could argue that we’ve forgotten their origins entirely.  There’s bit, a blend of binary and digit.  There’s bodacious, a combination of bold and audacious.  Lewis Carroll coined chortle, part chuckle, part snort.  The pixel, which we all know is “one of the tiny dots that make up the representation of an image in a computer’s memory,” as well as the name of a very famous movie company, originated as a portmanteau of picture and element.

In addition to bit and pixel, there are innumerable technology-related blends.  Blogosphere, emoticon, malware, and netiquette are just a few.  On the more scandalous side, there’s sexting and, as spotted recently by Word Spy, twimmolation, a blend of Twitter and immolation, which means “the destruction of a person’s career or reputation caused by lewd or insensitive Twitter posts.”

Then there’s literal cross-breeding.  What do you get when you cross a labrador and a poodle?  A labradoodle of course.  How about a tangerine and a pumelo, or grapefruit?  A tangelo.  What happens when you smash together a turkey, duck, and chicken? You get a turducken (and perhaps a stomachache). Do we have lists for crossed animals and fruits? Of course we do. In fact we have two.

Let’s not forget celebrity portmanteaus, the manifestation of romantic, sometimes short-lived, unions.  There’s Bennifer (Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, then Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner);TomKat (Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes); and of course Brangelina (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie).

Just recently, in the world of bromance, we learned of bronies, adult fanboys of My Little Pony, and brogramming (thanks @1lenore!), the art of programming with one’s “bros” (what, no girl programmers allowed?).  From Word Spy we learned about the nocturnist, a blend of nocturnal and internist, “a physician who cares for other doctors’ patients overnight,” and from linguistics expert (linguexpert?) Arnold Zwicky, we read about the mathemagician, a mathematician who also happens to be a magician; viewmongous, a blend of view and humungous, implying a humungous view of a television; muderabilia, memorabilia related to murders or murderers; and Newtiny, which refers to the recent mutiny of Newt Gringrich’s presidential campaign staff.

Come across any new blends yourself? Tweet it and tag it #unmappedwords or #unmapw.  Look up it on Wordnik and add your definition in the comments or “discuss” section.  Tag it portmanteau or blend. Make a list. Who knows?  Maybe eventually we can map the whole language, and no word will languish “off the map”.

We Are Not Alone

While sniffing around for frostitute usages yesterday I stumbled across lingofactory.tribe.net. Wordie is many things to many people, one of which is a neological playground. In that sense it shares a common mission with lingofactory: to seed the world with madeupical words.

One notable difference is that lingofactory has a “publish or perish” policy: non-particating lurkers are subject to eviction. Wordie will never be so harsh, but I have to say, I admire their ruthlessness.