Word of the Day : June 13, 2020

whodunit

play
noun hoo-DUN-it

Definition

: a detective story or mystery story

Did You Know?

In 1930, Donald Gordon, a book reviewer for News of Books, needed to come up with something to say about a rather unremarkable mystery novel called Half-Mast Murder. "A satisfactory whodunit," he wrote. The relatively new term (introduced only a year earlier) played fast and loose with spelling and grammar, but whodunit caught on anyway. Other writers tried respelling it who-done-it, and one even insisted on using whodidit, but those sanitized versions lacked the punch of the original and fell by the wayside. Whodunit became so popular that by 1939 at least one language pundit had declared it "already heavily overworked" and predicted it would "soon be dumped into the taboo bin." History has proven that prophecy false, and whodunit is still going strong.


Examples

"What made?Broadchurch?so inherently watchable was its odd-couple detectives: David Tennant's Hardy was as bitter and cantankerous as Olivia Colman's Miller was open and warm. The whodunit unfurled episode by episode, crossing off suspects who doubled as relatives and friends." — Gwen Inhat, The A.V. Club, 10 Apr. 2020

"For all the detective tales that dot television screens, the Agatha Christie-styled whodunit has gone curiously absent from movie theaters. The nostalgia-driven 'Murder on the Orient Express' (2017), popular as it was, didn't do much to dispel the idea that the genre has essentially moved into retirement, content to sit out its days in a warm puffy armchair, occasionally dusting itself off for a remake." — Jake Coyle, The Associated Press, 25 Nov. 2019



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