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The Story Behind it All

Forgive my sense of humour but this is how it happened. While I was living in Paris in 1982, I was working with several Americans, Australians, Brits, New Zealanders and Canadians (not to mention the odd German, French and Dutch person but they don't count in this story). One of the Americans noted that Canadian Eskimos (more politely, Inuit) had over 30 different words for "snow". (see Wikipedia for a discussion) If so, he mused, how many words do Australians have for "puking". This raised a certain amount of laughter and the standard dozen-or-so common synonyms (puke, sidewalk pizza, technicolour yawn, Ralph, calling Ralph on the porcelain telephone, etc.) and it was never mentioned again. Somehow, this thought stayed in the back of my mind and I raised the concept at the occasional pub session. Over the ensuing twelve years, I managed to accumulate another dozen or so synonyms.

I thought I had a pretty definitive list at the time. Nobody was coming up with any better ones. Then in 1994, I was starting to use the Internet and ran into the newsgroup news://aus.jokes. At the same time, a friend of mine, Bruce Mitchell, was preparing to move to Australia for a year. As a going-away gift, I thought I would present Bruce with some handy local vocabulary. I posed the question to the newsgroup and challenged them to complete my list. I was impressed when dozens of new synonyms appeared: Huey, Ford, Buick and bark at the floor certainly impressed all of us here in Ottawa. After a few months, I had about 200 of what I considered more than enough. I posted the list on my homepage for all to enjoy.

As I was ready to close down my participation in the newsgroup, someone forwarded a list of about 300 synonyms that had been picked up from an New Zealand bulletin board years before. I matched the lists and there were only about 100 overlaps. The list doubled to 400!

Late in 1994, I left the country for a year and didn't pay much attention to chunder (lists or otherwise) until early 1996. An initial search found about 12 exact duplicates of the Thunder Chunder List and another set of lists that included my 400 plus another couple of dozen new ones. What had happened was that in early 1995, the Thunder Chunder List was passed on to news://alt.tasteless.jokes and all the credits were removed (most notably mine!). I took the new list, posted it on my homepage and continued the research.

One major recent contribution was from the Oxford English Dictionary. It contains about 40 synonyms, many of them medical terms.

The list has gained a certain notoriety over the past few years with mentions on radio shows and even in the HotBot and Canada.com help file. Keep the synonyms coming.

Michael Bordt
Ottawa, Canada
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