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What does なんたらという mean? I searched なんたら's meaning and it showed. The following

  • oojah
  • oojahkapiv
  • oojamaflip
  • oojar
  • oojiboo

I used eow.alc.co.jp to search. http://eow.alc.co.jp/%E3%81%AA%E3%82%93%E3%81%9F%E3%82%89/UTF-8/ What do this mean? Is this a japanese only word?

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Uh, yeah. I don't think that article is helping... – Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Oct 31 '11 at 10:30
@IgnacioVazquez-Abrams: Note that Eijiro is primarily designed for people who speak Japanese as a native language and English as a foreign language. Although this entry does not help understanding the meaning of なんたら, it is helpful if you already know the meaning of なんたら and want to know how to say it in English. – Tsuyoshi Ito Nov 1 '11 at 19:36
up vote 4 down vote accepted

I suspect this is a type of metasyntactic variable, a word which stands in for an unknown word. I don't know why those examples were chosen, but more common metasyntactic variables in my idiolect are 'whatchamacallit', 'doodad', 'thingummy' etc.

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I asked a friend and they happened to use the same thingamajig-type of explanation. The explanation kind of implied a forgotten word though. – Louis Oct 31 '11 at 12:45
I've never heard of any idiolect that has the metasyntactic variables listed in the OP. They look completely foreign to me. – Karl Knechtel Nov 5 '11 at 8:21
FWIW, JEDict's «なんたらかんたら (exp) something or other (often used in place of a word or phrase that has been forgotten)» seems to support this hypothesis. – MickG Jan 6 at 22:00

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