Fraser’s Phrases: Dollop and Gollop

A dollop of mayonnaise, in a rammikin. Both certified dude-friendly

Earlier today I decided that I wanted to write about dollop. It’s one of the best words in the English language, being a descriptive term for a wobbly lump or gobbet of matter (usually food) which hangs together in a jellified pile. That splat of ketchup on the side of your plate is a dollop. You put a dollop of whipped cream on a pie.

So, as I often do, I looked up the derivations and origins, and came across, on one site, a few comments from people who were discussing when or whether they would use the term. Clearly it has legs in America, so it’s not a word that no one understands, but one commenter took an extreme stance, saying “I don’t think it’s a word that dudes should use.”

Well, frankly I was shaken. Had I been naively been expressing girly sentiments about mayonnaise or ice-cream when I asked for more? Had I somehow exposed my own lack of proper masculinity when I affectionately referred to the family dog – a lazy golden retriever who lives to eat and sleep – as a big dollop? What was I thinking?

Shaken, I rushed to Twitter and asked for feedback. Within seconds, there was a (very small) flood of concern. Men who’d been happily throwing the word around for years were questioning what kind of standard they were setting for the young. Women wondered how men could ask for condiments in the future. There was even a comical moment where on Twitter friend and I attempted to work out how the former Guns ‘n’ Roses guitarist Slash (the dude of all dudes, surely?) might say the word out loud. We got nowhere.

And then I found it the dollop is the unit of currency in Marzipan City, the community at the heart of the TV cartoon Chowder. This just confused matters further.

Suffice to say that the general consensus on this side of the Atlantic is this: if saying dollop is wrong, we don’t want to be right. We’ve been doing it since the mid 1500s (or at least, those of us who come from East Anglia have), although at the time we were referring to clods of mud. It’s not the first word people rush to when they get up in the morning, but to deny half the population the chance to use it would feel like an important color had been erased from the landscape. One of the shinier browns, or a particularly pungent green.

So, in summary: dollop IS a word that dudes should use, if only because it’s an ambigram, and ambigrams are cool.

Gollop, on the other hand, is only to be used when referring to someone who eats as if they are trying to develop food gills. Someone who swallows hamburgers whole. That person is golloping their food (not unlike our dog does, thinking about it), partly out of relish and partly out of sheer mechanical force. Gollopers can be male or female, so there’s no question of gender bias when using the word, it is simply a matter of the degree to which you wish to embarrass a guest at your dinner table.

Gallop is still fine, right? Men can say that? Cool.

Fraser McAlpine

Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 15 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME, Guardian and MSN. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Radio 2.

He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.

Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic

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