Moon - The word "dinkum"

Bruce N H

Active Member
Hey all,

Back in the first episode we had some discussion of the word "dinkum". In the first introduction of Mike, Manny says "Mike was a fair dinkum thinkum, the sharpest computer you'll ever meet." It wasn't immediately clear what "dinkum" meant. Obviously "thinkum" was about Mike's intelligence and computing power. Perhaps "dinkum" meant that Mike was relatively small, or dinky. I don't think that's right, though. Back in 1966 when Heinlein was writing, the mark of a great computer wasn't how small it was. I remember in the late 70's going to my dad's office and he took me down to the "computer room" - full of huge cabinets with tape drives etc, like something you see in old movies or footage of NASA during the moon mission. Or to take from one of Heinlein's main contemporaries - Asimov has several short stories that feature Multivac, the world's smartest computer, which was the size of a huge building taking up full city blocks. So maybe Heinlein foresaw tiny computers, like the phone in my pocket that probably has the computing power of one of those old computer rooms, but I doubt it. We know Manny has to take the transport out to Mike's control room, so I envisage that Mike takes up a huge complex out in some otherwise uninhabited part of the moon (this is my first time reading Moon, and I'm behind in the reading, so maybe this is addressed later in the book).

But I've found better proof of the meaning of "dinkum". In chapter 9, when Authority starts requiring people to carry passports, a trade in counterfeit passports pops up. Manny says, "But before long, authentic paper was stolen, and counterfeits were as dinkum as official ones..." In context here, the word dinkum seems to mean something like "as useful as", or "as real as", or maybe "as apparently real as". So, back to the original use, if Mike is a "fair dinkum thinkum", I think it means that his thinking seems as real as, or is just as good as, the thinking of human brains. So it's kind of another way of saying that Mike is alive.

Bruce from Merriam Websters online dictionary
Definition of dinkum (Entry 1 of 2)
Australia and New Zealand
Aha! A dictionary! Who would have thought that was a good source for the meaning of words? :) I had just assumed, and that was the implication in the discussion, that this was Loonie slang that Heinlein made up, but we should have figured he had a source since so many of the other Loonie-isms came from other languages and cultures.