A Freakonomics Quiz on Redonkulous New Words

New words are constantly being created in the English language. The word “ginormous” made it into the Merriam-Webster dictionary a few years back, in part because it could be traced back to a 1948 dictionary of British military slang.

A word I have been hearing the last year or two is “redonkulous,” (or alternatively “redonkulus”), which the Urban Dictionary defines as “significantly more absurd than ridiculous, to an almost impossible degree.”

What is the origin of the word redonkulous?

Searching on the web, I found discussions that all seem to center around recent mentions on sitcoms or movies.? And it certainly has the feel of a very modern word.

I was surprised, therefore, to stumble onto a version of the word redonkulous in print, spelled slightly differently, nearly 30 years ago.

So as a reward to those blog readers who are both hip and literate, we are offering Freakonomics schwag to the first blog reader who can identify the book where I saw this redonkulus reference.

Addendum: The answer is here.

Matt Fowles

Redonkulous comes from a series of corruptions of Ridiculous. People noticed the word "dick" hiding in the midst of Ridiculous, and tried inserting other synonyms for penis. Including "riwangulous", "ricockulous", and "ridongulous". Redonkulous just sounds better then "ridongulous".

Jim Ospenson

Future Shock, Warren Toffler

Matt Golden

going out on a limb here and guessing "A Light In the Attic." Just seems like a Shel Silverstein kind of a word.


Sounds like something from either Li'l Abner or Pogo. How about "We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us"?


Roald Dahl's "The BFG"




1908 book on Magic:


A pogo comic anthology?

Matt B.

The Bible.


The Wilson Portrait of Franklin: Earl Gray's gift to the nation(or a title really close to that)


It is the merging of "ridiculous" and "donkey"--in other words, "ridiculous to an asinine degree" or "ridiculous to the point of being asinine."

I will send a bill....

Marna Mycroft

Sounds like something Lewis Carroll would do. All Brillig and Mimsy.


I found a 1907 reference to "redinkulous" in "Magician's Monthly Magazine": http://books.google.com/books?id=FnVMAAAAYAAJ&pg=RA2-PA92&dq=redinkulous&hl=en&ei=MvcHTNScE8T7lwec8OS1Dg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CCcQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=redinkulous&f=false

Johnny S

The Bourne Identity... just a guess


Not sure where you saw it, but a cursory search of Google Books shows a similar word ("Redinkulous") in a book about Harry Houdini from 1907, as well as an issue of the Strand from the same time period. I suppose this is an example of a word gone out of style and back in again?



Prince's recording contract with Warner Bros.


Its got to be the British sitcom 'Allo 'Allo, where the french gendarme is actually british and cannot pronounce French (english) properly


Allo'Allo!: The Complete War Diaries of Rene Artois?


Slaughterhouse 5?



I can only assume a biopic on Dr. J, Julius Erving. That man was a wizard in the paint.


I thought it originated as a poker term....as someone who is very bad is referred to as a donkey and when they win it gets called 'redonkulous'.

Maybe it shows up in Doyle Brunson's 'Super System' or another poker book?