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Coined 1935, by Damon Runyon.[1]

Phonology pseudo-Greek[2] – note the ph. The term may be analyzed as *phe- + dinkus (contrivance (slang)), where the prefix is an optional consonant /f/, with the stressless vowel added in the same way as other mutually apophonic prefixes (when the consonant changes, the vowel changes accordingly) such as pi- (pizazz), she- (shebang), etc.[3]


phedinkus (uncountable)

  1. (obsolete, rare, nonce word) Nonsense, malarkey
    • 1935, Damon Runyon, “Tobias the Terrible”, collected in Money from home, Frederick A. Stokes company:
      If I have all the tears that are shed on Broadway by guys in love, I will have enough salt water to start an opposition ocean to the Atlantic and Pacific, with enough left over to run the Great Salt Lake out of business. But I wish to say I never shed any of these tears personally, because I am never in love, and furthermore, barring a bad break, I never expect to be in love, for the way I look at it love is strictly the old phedinkus, and I tell the little guy as much.
    • 1994, Gus Lee, China boy: a novel:
      Like yur Uncle Shen, or whatsis phedinkus name. Yur fightin a big street lummox who kicks.

Usage notesEdit

Very rarely used – coined by Runyon decades ago and has not entered common usage, with only very rare usage by other authors; incomprehensible without context or quotation.[4]


  1. ^ The Routledge dictionary of modern American slang and unconventional English, by Tom Dalzell, Eric Partridge, 2008, p. 742
  2. ^ I break my word, Ivor John Carnegie Brown, 1951, p. 94, “Damon Runyon’s Broadway argot included ‘the old phedinkus’, which has a Grecian savour.”
  3. ^ “The Iconicity of Consonant Alternation”, Roger W. Wescott, in Functional approaches to language, culture, and cognition: papers in honor of Sydney M. Lamb, (2000), editors David G. Lockwood, Peter Howard Fries, James E. Copeland, p. 208, Table 11, Section 7 “Phoneme Alternation as Affixation”
  4. ^ Guys and Dolls and Other Writings, Damon Runyon, introduction by Pete Hamill, p. viii “Nobody alive knows what a ‘phedinkus’ is, and Runyon’s stories are sprinkled with other words whose meanings have vanished into air. But their meanings can almost alway be deciphered from context.”