Every once in a while I run across some linguistic usage so bizarre that I have to poll my readership to see 1) if it’s used by more than the one person who brought it up, and 2) if so, whether anybody knows its history. Today I present to you elvissinatra in AskMetaFilter:

Anybody else grow up calling a pacifier, a “goots”? I’m not sure if I’m spelling it correctly, but that’s how it sounds (rhymes with boots). I’m not Jewish, but that word sounds Yiddish to me. Now I’ve got a kid of my own, and everybody thinks I’m crazy because I call it a goots. Is it a name brand? West Michigan Polish/Italian slang? Or what?

The Yiddish idea has been shot down in the comment thread (though I suppose it could be a dialect word); other terms mentioned are nookie, binkie, dummy, zooba, padiddle, geegee, bubble, and perhaps ish (if that person was serious). All suggestions, other words, thoughts, and jokes are, as always, welcome. Me, I’ve never called it anything but a pacifier.


  1. I thought “padiddle” was something you were supposed to say when you saw a car with one headlight out.

  2. mom says she called it a suckie or a soother

  3. I promise you, LH, we really did call it an “ish” in my family!
    And yep, “padiddle” is what you say when you see a car with one headlight out, sometimes accompanied by a one-handed smack of the ceiling of your own car.

  4. My mother and aunts always called it a “pipe,” as in, “Oh no, baby dropped his pipe.”

  5. Never heard of “goots”! We call it “soother”. In Finnish I called it “tuti” but there may be other names.

  6. In my family, we call it a “suce” (like Dr. Seuss), which sounds a bit like “goots”. I didn’t realise “suce” wasn’t an English word until I just Googled it now… It’s French, which I knew, I just thought that the English borrowed the French word.

  7. I didn’t need a baby-talk term for the thing, as neither I nor my daughter had any interest in using one. However, my daughter’s friends often called it a “bobo”, and my daughter picked that form up.

  8. in my family it’s a ‘nunu’… 🙂

  9. “Dummy” is AFAIK the standard name for the thing in Britain. I never heard “pacifier” growing up, and it still strikes me as faintly ludicrous. (Most of the other terms do too, of course, but not for the same reason.)

  10. “Soother”, mentioned above by several commenters, is standard in Canada.

  11. In Dutch it is called a fopspeen, which means something like “fake nipple”.

  12. In addition to ‘pacifier’, which I use, I’ve heard ‘nook’ (used by my parents and grandparents) and ‘soothie’ (used by my sister-in-law). I suspect ‘soothie’ is a newer, more fashionable term.

  13. For what it’s worth, nook, spelled Nuk, and soothie (and binky) are brand names for pacifiers. My parents called it a ‘passy’, but my daughter uses a binky.

  14. Any relation to German (regional, dialectal — Swabian, I think) “Gutsel”, which might be translated as “goodie”, maybe? It usually refers to a piece of hard candy, though I wouldn’t be surprised if there were dialects that have it with the “pacifier” meaning.

  15. Aha, that’s a promising lead!

  16. Tim, we’ll brook no remarks about “pacifier” from the land that originated “perambulator”.

  17. We call it a ‘passy’.

  18. my sister always used to call it a ‘dubby’. The spelling is her own.

  19. I called a pacifier a “tattu” [‘t&.tu]when I was little. I distinctly remember being confused by the word “tattoo” the first time I encountered it.

  20. “nookie” is also British slang for intercourse – though it’s pronounced more like “nuckie”.
    (BTW the blog won’t allow the simpler three-letter word to be used in a post – must have a Latinate bias …!)

  21. A further lead from snownoid at AskMetaFilter:
    Gutti are Roman baby bottles. There’s some information on them that might be helpful here and here, but it’s all in German.
    Short summary: The word “gutti” comes from Greek “gutta”, “drop”, pacifiers are still called “Gutzi” or “Gutsi” in some part(s) of Germany.

    Can anyone confirm this?

  22. Ah, yes, the suffix -i would be another very common way to create a diminutive (like -el, -sel…) in German. I’m just not sure about the distribution — certainly High German dialects, but which exactly…

  23. When I was a baby it was a “dummy”. When my children were babies it was a “sut” – my wife is Danish (at sutter = to suck at).

  24. The AskMetafilter comment from snownoid is paraphrasing/transliating the following quote from one of the pages he linked to:
    “In dem Wort Gutzi oder Gutsi für Schnuller ist das Wort heute noch im Deutschen in der Gegend von Karlsruhe in Gebrauch.”
    So apparently, Karlsruhe is the area in Germany where they use the word Gutzi and/or Gutsi…

  25. My children were given Nuk soothers/pacifiers/dummies. We pronounced it ‘nuke’.

  26. Never heard of “goots” in Dutch. It has the wrong sound to be Dutch, for a word with that sound already exists, e.g. in the combination “wat goeds”, i.e. “something good”. The “goeds” here does indeed sound like “goots”, with the Dutch g of course, but the s is an ending and I have never heard “goeds” used standing alone. A Dutch thesaurus is needed here.

  27. my family has always called it a “binkie” or a “bink”, but my grandmother says when she was young they had something similar to a pacifier that they called a “sugar tit”. pleasant. and a friend of mine who married and spent some time in the appalachians said that her ex-husband’s family who were all mountain people used a piece of porkfat wrapped in cheesecloth as a pacifier (horrors!) and they called it a “ticotee”. GROSS.

  28. (I just saw that someone suggested something similar already…)
    The dialect spoken in the area where I grew up, (Palatinate / Pfalz), has a word which is pronounced “goots”. It means candy or lozenge, (probably from “gut” = “good”).
    Afaik, this dialect was the origin of what still exists today as “Pennsylvanian Dutch” or ” -Deitsch”. I know, Michigan is not Pennsylvania, and a pacifier is not a lozenge, but they´re both things kids like to suck on.
    I just thought I´d share…

  29. David Marjanović says

    -i is not so much a diminutive as a nickname suffix, and in this function it extends all the way to English. In German, however, you put it at the end of just about every noun when you talk to a baby.
    Only German word I know of for the thing in question: Schnuller. No idea about the etymology of that one; I’m not aware of a similar word at all.

  30. Lutz Mackensen says it’s from schnullen ‘suck’; he adds “17. Jh.; SchW.” — the verb is onomatopoeic, and I guess it’s attested from the 17th century.

  31. For what it’s worth, “goots” is a Hebrew adjective meaning ‘short and plump (person)'” sometimes meaning ‘gnome’. I don’t think this is it, though.

  32. I don’t either, but it’s a nice word, so thanks!

  33. FL:My children were given Nuk soothers/pacifiers/dummies. We pronounced it ‘nuke’.
    Nuk Brand Pacifiers
    another quality child care product from
    LeMay Enterprises of Minot, ND
    “Peace is our profession”
    Ensure a lasting peace in YOUR household – choose Nuk!

  34. We called it a plug. I’ve never heard of goots.

  35. John Cowan says

    My eldest grandchild was also a noboboist (see above), but the two youngins are definitely bobobabies.

    Is there a technical term for ‘suckling two children (not twins) at the same time’? My daughter is doing it now. Not absolutely simultaneously, that is, but concurrently.

  36. @John Cowan: “Tandem breastfeeding” is the term I know.

  37. Lars (the original one) says

    Let me adduce Swedish godis for ‘candy’ sensu lato. -is is a productive derivational morpheme, pre-kindergarten is dagis for daghem for instance, but I doubt it’s inherited from anything much.

  38. Trond Engen says

    Goodies nativized? Wiktionary tells me that the source of the morpheme is Latin -is, but with earliest attestations in the 1880’ies, it could just as well (or just “as well”) have been borrowed and reinterpreted from English, making godis a first generation formation.

  39. Lars Mathiesen says

    It does, does it? [Citation needed]

    This source quotes a Swedish lecturer of Swedish in Poland to the effect that some of the first -is words were tjockis = ‘fatso’ and kondis = ‘cake shop’. Those do not look like anything in English that I can think of, so nativization seems doubtful. She does not venture any other guess as to the origin (or is not quoted for one at least).

    I checked the Dictionary of the Swedish Academy, they just list godis as a derivation of god (“primarily child language”) but do not seem to treat the derivational morpheme separately.

    One of the things even snuck into Danish: kendis from kändis = ‘celebrity’. *clutches pearls*

  40. Common in modern colloquial Finnish too, transmitted thru Stadin slangi where it’s extremely productive.

    There are just a few native words which also have a formant -is : -ikse- (jänis ‘hare’, varis ‘crow’), but this is surely too little to have anything to do with the new suffix and I would indeed blame Latin. The entire thing smacks to me of a 19th century ascended schoolboy meme.

Speak Your Mind