Friday, September 05, 2008


I was researching reasonably priced bottles of single malt Scotch, and in my explorations came across what the author of, an exceptionally wonderful Scotch resource, refers to as "my shitlist", an amusing assortment of dreck that includes an interesting list of quotations, among which my favorites were:
  • Daniel Bond on Edradour 10yo: 'How did they make this? Burn gummibears and dissolve them in gasoline?'
  • Christos Sigalas on Tullibardine 10yo: 'It's like licking Wembley's Arena green grass. Good only for drunk hooligans.'
  • W. Ripley on Mekong: 'Never drink anything that only gets a lukewarm recommendation from an Australian infantryman!'
  • S.Godfrey on Tobermory: 'While Tobermory may be a fine name for a womble, as a whisky it should be avoided at all costs.'
However, while I'm familiar with gummi bears, Wembley Arena, and Australian infantrymen, I didn't have the foggiest notion concerning a womble. Obviously, this is because I'm not British. According to the web, The Wombles are fictional characters of a sort of rat/aardvark hybrid popularized in late '60's books by Elisabeth Beresford (whose children referred to Wimbleton Common as Wombleton Common, hence the name and the most well known domain of The Wombles) and a '70's series on the Beeb (BBC), who "Make Good Use of Bad Rubbish". Even if you're not familiar with the Wombles, you may be familiar with a cultural reference in The Rutles, as the drummer is Barrington Womble MBE. So that's a fairly good explanation of the quote, because Tobermory is a good name for a puppetish BBC character.

But it seems there is more to the definition of womble than the puppet characters Great Uncle Bulgaria, Tobermory (see, it's the actual name of one of the puppets), Orinoco, Bungo, Tomsk, Wellington and Madame Cholet. A womble can be someone from Wimbleton, presumably (thought that's a guess) fallout from the popularity of the television show. A womble can be the backstage/techie crew in a stage production. A womble is a character in the Discworld MUD, based on the books of Terry Pratchett.

But there's more! A womble is a surname, or more precisely: "English: habitational name from Wombwell in South Yorkshire, named with the Old English byname Wamba meaning ‘belly’ (or this word used in a transferred topographical sense) + Old English well(a) ‘spring’, ‘stream’."

And, womble seems to have acquired a nerd definition, which is how I'm going to employ it in day-to-day work conversation, at which point I'll be "that manager who always says womble this and womble that." Womble: "n. [Unisys UK: from British puppet-show characters] A user who has great difficulty in communicating their requirements and/or in using the resulting software. Extreme case of luser. An especially senior or high-ranking womble is referred to as Great-Uncle Bulgaria. [Scooter: he was the head Womble]".

More than one nerd definition, if you use them as a metaphor for good interaction design in using what's available and what works rather than what's proper.

Should you need to obsess about puppets you may or may not have grown up watching on television, some helpful links include:

And to add a bit of multimedia zest, The Wombles doing their Wombling Song:

Remember You're a Womble:

And yes...The Wombles do bear a striking resemblance to The Banana Splits in its feel and some of its sound, which ran from 1968 to 1970:


boringsahm said...

I know "The Wombles"! and in this generation I believe they have evolved into BBC's
"The Fimbles"
more colourful and highly annoying. Thankfully my boy's hate them!

Sank said...

Great post. Might be time for a South Of The River Blogger meetup over some single malts.

Auchentoshan is my favorite entry level Single Malt. Check'r out.