phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at


Posted by James Briggs on April 12, 2004

In Reply to: Mumbo jumbo posted by ESC on April 11, 2004

: : : Recently I came across a phrase that looked like 'choco bloc'. May I know the meaning.
: : : Where can I access such twin-like phrases (eg:mumbo jumbo,criss cross, zig zag etc.)?
: : : tahnks.
: : : V.Ananthanarayanan
: : : 185, Subramaniam Road, R.S.Puram, coimbatore 641002
: : : ph:91-422-5365753

: : From Merriam-Webster online at

: : Chockablock

: : Main Entry: 1chock?a?block
: : Pronunciation: 'chä-k&-"bläk
: : Function: adverb
: : : CHOCK

: : Main Entry: 2chockablock
: : Function: adjective
: : 1 : brought close together
: : 2 : very full

: Merriam-Webster online is a good site for looking up words.

: We recently discussed "mumbo jumbo" here. To access the discussion, type in the expression in the archives search.

: MUMBO JUMBO ? ?is generally used to mean any kind of gibberish or meaningless combination of words or syllables. Originally, however, it was a word in Mandingo (ma-ma-gyo-mbo) meaning ?magician who makes the troubled spirits of ancestors go away.? It referred to the belief of some Mandingo peoples in the western Sudan that a high priest called the ?Mumbo Jumbo? had the power to protect his village from evil spirits.? ?The Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins? by William and Mary Morris (HarperCollins, New York, 1977, 1988).

: : Another reference has a different take on the term. ?Mama Dyumbo was really more a male chauvinist god than anything else. The English explorer Mungo Park writes in his ?Travels in the Interior of Africa? that Mama Dyumbo was the spirit protecting the villages of Khassonke, a Mandingo African tribe on the Senegal. His name literally means ?ancestor with a pompon,? or wearing a tuft on his hat. Mama Dyumbo was mostly a ploy used by crafty husbands to silence their many wives?? The ?god? would appear to frighten the offending wife and then tie her to a tree and ?whip her silent? amid the jeers of onlookers. ?Because the god bewildered offending women, mumbo jumbo came to mean confusing talk, nonsense and meaningless ceremony? ?Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins? by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997).

Chock-a-block, indicates that something or somewhere is grossly overfull. This is another of naval origin. It was used when two blocks of tackle were so hard together that they couldn't be tightened further. The modern colloquial "this room is chockers" and similar phrases are derived from this old saying.