No, “The Whatchamacallit” is not a biography of the Hershey’s candy bar of the same name. This book is the authors’ attempt to highlight and put in context 100 things that people see, touch or use every day, but probably can’t define or name. It’s a curious endeavor, because most of the 100 entries—like a poof point (“the highest point of a pillow or soft cushion when each corner, known as the nib, lies flat on a surface”)—are forgettable largely because they aren’t need-to-know words.
Nonetheless, there are a few choice selections—like cumulonimbus (“the name for that mighty, rain bearing cloud that resembles a sky-borne mountainous landscape”)—that will make any knowing individual feel just a little bit smarter. And some of the linguistic history—like the story behind the fist bump (or dap)—is fairly compelling. But unless you’re the kind of person who insists on knowing the right word for everything, you can probably get by without reading a page or two or three about everything from achenes to zucchetto.