The film, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, is famous for many things, not least of all the car, but it does feature a particular actor who appears to speak in gobbledygook and that actor is none other than Stanley Unwin. Gobbledygook is defined as language that is either unintelligible or meaningless, but that doesn’t quite cover Unwin’s particular form of speech.
Stanley Unwin’s Career
Stanley Unwin developed his own language which he named Unwinese and became quite famous for it, appearing in many other productions on stage and screen. Unwin started as a radio reporter during the Second World War when he worked for the BBC’s War Reporting Unit from about 1944 onwards. An accidental breakthrough came after the war when Unwin was in Egypt recording a series of shows with the great comedian, Frankie Howerd. When Howerd was taken ill at the last minute, Unwin was pushed on stage and told “to do a turn”; thus began a career that would see him feature in many major productions.
Unwinese is a corrupted form of English in which some words remain unchanged, while others are mixed up and altered. It is quite compelling to listen to, because the use of ‘normal’ words (for want of a better word) lures the listener into believing that they can understand what is being said. Indeed, it is certainly possible to get the gist of the conversation whilst not quite following it. This must be one of those splendid occasions when one is better informed but none the wiser.
Stanley Unwin’s Childhood
Unwin described the early development of unwinese as a small boy. It is not unusual for parents of young children, and the children themselves, to develop something of their own language or, at the very least, use certain words to describe key things. Unwin recounts that his mother was his early inspiration when she once told him as they walked home that she had, “falolloped over and grazed her kneeclabbers”. The sentiment is clear, and the expression both nonsensical and wondrous at the same time.