September 27, 2018

Dilly Dilly Writing

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

Last Thursday night, the Cleveland Browns won their first football game since 2016. It happened to be themed “Dilly Dilly Day.” Bud Light made a promise to fans: if the Browns win, everyone gets a free beer from the special padlocked coolers placed around the stadium. The Browns won on Thursday night, and the crowd was chanting happily, “Dilly Dilly” as they downed their free beer.

Clearly, I was late to the “Dilly Dilly” party. I had no clue what it meant. I asked my husband, a football aficionado what in the world “Dilly Dilly” meant. He told me a tale that I quickly googled to learn more. What I found confirmed my husband’s tale, “Dilly Dilly” was a totally made up catchphrase that first appeared in a medieval-themed 2017 Bud Light commercial. In the ad, when someone is given Bud Light, the greeting is "Dilly Dilly." The phrase has no meaning. It was just made up by advertising executives. Did you know?

It got me to thinking about made up words. I remembered a Doris Day and Rock Hudson 1961 movie, “Lover Come Back” where they played competing advertising executives. Hudson’s character, Jerry Webster made up word, “VIP,” and the movie story-line revolves around the made up word. 

Of course, science fiction authors make up words and worlds all the time. Think J. K. Rowling, here are a few of her made up words: “Quidditch” (popular sport within the realm of the wizarding world involving a golden “Snitch”); “Pensieve” (a magical instrument used to view memories); “Squib”(a non-magical person who is born to magical parents); “Thestral” (a mythical horse with a skeletal body and bat-like wings); and “Mudblood” (a magical person who is born to non-magical parents). 

These are the words made up by J.R.R. Tolkien that we all are familiar with: “Orc,” “Míthril,” and of course, he is the author of “Elvish” language.

BookBub has a blog post of 10 Common Words Coined byWriters: “Nerd” created by Dr. Seuss, “Chortle” created by Lewis Carroll, “Addiction” created by William Shakespeare, “Blatant” created by Edmund Spenser, “Tween” created by J.R.R. Tolkien, “Catch-22” created by Joseph Heller, “Pandemonium” created by John Milton, and “Butterfingers” created by Charles Dickens.”

In researching “dilly dilly” I actually ran across a song, “Lavender’s Blue, Dilly Dilly” from the 2015 production of Cinderella. The song was written by Burl Ives, who may have adapted his song from a 16th Century folk song. Interesting, "dilly dilly" existed long before Bud turned it into the catch phrase of today.

It’s our responsibility as authors to not only create memorable stories with unforgettable characters but we need to be the authors of new words. What fun! Dilly Dilly, y’all!

Have you created any words in your writing?

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