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noun [countable]

a small, colourful plastic trumpet blown by football fans to make a noise during matches

'Belgian diabolica aims to be new World Cup sound … Move over vuvuzela. A compact, Belgian-made trumpet dubbed the diabolica is gearing up to replace the South African horn as the noisemaker of choice at the next World Cup games in Brazil.'

Yahoo Sports 11th May 2014

The word diabolical was one adjective many people might have used to describe the loud, piercing sound produced by the vuvuzela – the fans' instrument of choice at stadiums across South Africa during the 2010 World Cup. Ironically, the same word is now connected with a designation for what looks likely to be Brazil 2014's answer to the vuvuzela. Pin back your ears, because here comes the diabolica!

any potential purchasers out there might also be pleased to hear that the diabolica allegedly requires less lung power than the vuvuzela

The diabolica is a lightweight plastic trumpet now being mass-produced in a variety of bright, team colours targeting the forthcoming tournament (you can see some examples here). A snip at around 9 euros, the diabolica resembles a small telescope in that it can be collapsed into three separate pieces – a mouthpiece, extension piece and trumpet. These fit inside each other so that, when collapsed, the whole thing is just 12 centimetres long and can easily fit into a pocket, making it very easy to take into a football stadium. Any potential purchasers out there might also be pleased to hear that the diabolica allegedly requires less lung power than the vuvuzela, a fact which could also be 'music to the ears' of other spectators as it means the instrument is quieter (a mere 98 decibels as opposed to 122 for the vuvuzela!). The diabolica makes a higher-pitched noise than the vuvuzela and simulates a trilling sound when the stem of the instrument is pumped. If you'd like to hear it, check out the first short video in this article which shows it being demonstrated by one of its co-creators. The article also contains a video featuring the caxirola, a percussion instrument initially hailed as the official one for the tournament but which has subsequently been banned from many of the Brazilian soccer grounds for safety reasons.

Background – diabolica

The diabolica is the creation of young Belgian designers David Dos Santos and Fabio Lavalle. The instrument was named after the Belgian national football team who are known as 'the Red Devils' (i.e. French diable = devil). Dos Santos and Lavalle got the idea for the product from a friend of a friend who had been banned from entering a stadium with a conventional gas canister horn. Taking inspiration from nature and how birds make sounds through vibration against a membrane, they experimented with various membranes to get the desired effect.

The young designers have been overwhelmed by the success of the diabolica which, doubtless galvanized by controversy surrounding both the vuvuzela and the caxirola (the former too noisy, the latter too dangerous), has already sold in hundreds of thousands and looks set to be the soundtrack to the 2014 event.

The Latin word diabolus is the origin of references to the devil in a variety of romance languages (e.g. French diable, Spanish diablo, Italian diavolo). In English, it spawned the adjective diabolical, which dates back to the 15th century and in its strictest sense means 'characteristic of the devil', but over time has acquired a more informal meaning of 'very bad'.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

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This article was first published on 11th June 2014.

Open Dictionary


a form of location that involves the underwater detonation of a bomb which causes sound waves that are picked up by ships

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