Today’s word of the day is kerplunk, a sound like something heavy falling in water. Splash!
At its root is plunk, added to which is the ker- prefix, which H.L. Mencken suggests, and others seem to confirm, is related to the German prefix ge-. It is used to form past participles in that language.
The Century Dictionary explains that ker- is “an unstressed introductory syllable, perhaps better written ka- or ke-, used in some dialectal words, without meaning in itself but serving to introduce an emphatic stress, as in kerslap, kerchunk, kerplunk, kerwhack, etc. It probably originated in the involuntary utterance which often precedes a sudden physical effort, as in striking with an ax or hammer or paving-rammer.”
Other ker- words are kerwallop, kerslop, kerflop, kerthump, kerslam, kerflummux, and kerbang. Kaboom and kablooey are probably also related.
And, for readers of David Foster Wallace’s tome INFINITE JEST, there’s “kertwang,” which comes from the sound of a tennis ball being hit hard off a tennis racket but is also used to describe any situation in which you find yourself being flung wildly in a different direction, as with a sudden realization.
As you no doubt remember, in Blueberries for Sal, Sal’s three blueberries sound “kerplink, kerplank, kerplunk” in her small tin pail (which is always empty because she eats berries almost as fast as she picks them).