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AWADmail Issue 729A Weekly Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Tidbits about Words and Language
Sponsor’s Message: “Old’s Cool” sums up our philosophy of life in a neat little turn of phrase - even though our real motto is “Shamalamading dong the doo dang dee.” But that’s another story. Even though it’s kind of too late (what else is new?), we’re offering this week’s Email of the Week winner, Mark McAllister-Jones (see below), as well as all fathers, grandfathers, and family men everywhere 20% off -- through midnight tonight -- just be sure to use coupon code “SHOP4POP”.
From: Mark McAllister-Jones (MMcAllister-Jones wfw.com)
This word brought a wry smile to my face. When I first moved to London to start my career, I met up with a good friend to celebrate my arrival in the big city. As we were making our way home from the pub, around a corner came a group of inebriated young men, singing and laughing as they went. As they passed us, we were caught up in their dancing -- all very good-natured. Only seconds after they passed on out of sight, we realised our mobile phones and wallets were gone -- and so were the ‘revellers’. I must admit, the first thought that struck me was their obvious skill: acting, light fingers, and a ninja-like getaway.
When I reported the theft to a police officer, she responded knowingly: “Ah, hugger-muggers”. Although I don’t remember actually being hugged in the above encounter, I’m thankful I was mugged by a group who preferred non-violent means over the more traditional ‘threaten-them-with-a-weapon’ method. As an aside, at the end of our conversation, the police officer promised to let me know if anything turned up (nothing did) before finishing -- apparently without any trace of sarcasm -- “Welcome to London!”
Mark McAllister-Jones, London, UK
From: Rodger Lewis (rzlewis comcast.net)
When I was a boy growing up in Chicago in the ‘30s and ‘40s, we kids, boys and girls, would refer to a female relative or friend of the family who, meaning well, grabbed you and kissed you on every occasion as a hugger-mugger -- disengagement was often an embarrassing struggle.
Rodger Lewis, Crawfordville, Florida
From: Lora Kahn (kahnverse nyc.rr.com)
I am familiar with hugger-mugger from Hamlet. In Act IV, Scene V, Claudius and Gertrude are witnessing Ophelia’s descent into madness.
While never claiming responsibility for killing the true king, his brother, and starting the chain of events that caused Hamlet to kill Ophelia’s father, Claudius does admit that “for good Polonius’s death we have done but greenly/in hugger-mugger to inter him.” “Hugger-mugger” seems to me to be such a perfectly chosen way of expressing the chaotic and poisoned atmosphere of the Danish court at this moment, and how one evil deed piles on another, one cover up after another, as the play progresses.
Lora Kahn, New York, New York
From: Pegi Bevins (prbevins minburncomm.net)
We bought the Huggermugger board game years ago and still play it. As you can imagine, the goal of the game is to reveal the secret word. Great game and a must for those of us who love language!
Pegi Bevins, Woodward, Iowa
From: Dan McCurdy, Sr. (klifdj aol.com)
I had never considered the universal utility of hugger-muggers until a discussion I had with a Greek friend of mine. We talked about a restaurant in town and she asked about the food. My response was “mezzo-mezzo”...to which she responded, in Greece that would be “etchy-ketchy”. At least that was the way she pronounced it. Correct spelling in her country would obviously be Greek to me.
Dan P. McCurdy, Sr., Sherman, Texas
From: Daithi Ryder (ryder cloonliffen.com)
In Ireland we say ‘cogar mogar’ as ‘cogar’ means whisper -- we mean ‘Come here ‘til I tell you this on the quiet...’
Daithi Ryder, Cor an Dola, Ireland
From: Janet Rizvi (janetrizvi gmail.com)
Hugger-Mugger in the Louvre! My mother was reading the novel, about 70 years ago, and I, aged seven or thereabouts, was totally flummoxed by the title. As well as the idea of hugger-mugger, it was the first time I had heard of the Louvre; and from that day to this whenever the Louvre floats into my consciousness for any reason, it’s with a background frisson of rushing and confusion. (Notwithstanding the several perfectly staid and peaceful visits I’ve made to that wonderful repository of art and culture.)
Your post inspired me to check the novel out on Amazon, and now I’ve downloaded it onto my Kindle. It looks promising and I hope I enjoy it as much as my mother did.
What you call reduplicatives are, as you are surely aware, common in Hindi/Urdu. In one Hindi grammar that I studied, they were identified as ‘jingling appositives’. Isn’t that a more appealing term than ‘reduplicatives’?
Dr Janet Rizvi, Gurgaon, India
From: John Baur (chumbucket talklikeapirate.com)
We’re staying at a friend’s house while we’re on the road this week, and this morning I looked up from the computer as she came in the door from her garden. I said the “word of the day” is hugger-mugger, and told her the definition. She replied, “I wouldn’t have guessed that. I’d have thought it was someone who hides around the corner and jumps out and hugs you. ‘I’m a hugger-mugger!’”
John Baur, Albany, Oregon
From: David Putnam (davehputnam hotmail.com)
My (UK) parents would say ‘No more argie bargie from you!’ in response to a childish strop.
David Putnam, Marlow, UK
From: Andrew Fyall (agfyall gmail.com)
I’m going to throw a questioning spanner into today’s word...
As far as I’m aware, ‘argle-bargle’ is a merely a localised dialectal change of the original word, argie-bargie or argy-bargy. The origins of ‘argle-bargle’ probably came from a poorly written ‘argie bargie’, with the i being easily mistaken for an l.
The word is more than likely Scottish in origin. The Dictionary of the Scots Language (DSL) has it listed as being seen in literature from 1887, but argie-bargie/argy-bargy is widely considered as being from a much earlier time. Aside from the literary world of Robert Burns and Walter Scott and their like, local words and their variations were rarely, if ever, written down. The active collation of the everyday, colloquial, and dialectal words of the Scots language was not really collected until the early 1900s, and because the dialects are rapidly dying out, the work is still going on today.
I know from my own experience that the same words spoken in Ardler, the tiny village I was born in, are still pronounced differently by those who lived in Meigle, 1.5 miles away in one direction...and in Coupar Angus, 2 miles in the other. With some being totally unique to the micro-climate within each small village or town. To make matters even more exciting, even though we are only a short distance apart, we all have a recognisably different accent.
One last word on ‘argie-bargie’ though: should there ever be a question on its pronunciation, the Indian Restaurant in the BBC TV Soap ‘Eastenders’, is called The Argie-Bargie.
Andrew Fyall, London, UK
Many readers from various parts of the world wrote to say that they were familiar with the term argie-bargie/argy-bargy, instead of argle-bargle.
The earliest documented use of the term argle-bargle in the Oxford English Dictionary is from 1872, while argie-bargie/argy-bargy is from 1887. As you note, however, it’s possible that argie-bargie/argy-bargy was used earlier but we do not have a citation for it.
Also, it’s important to note that these dates are for the first documented use of the term in English. Though the status of Scots as a dialect vs language muddies that distinction. The reader Ossie Bullock has dug up some earlier citations.
Finally, there are many real restaurants with this name.
From: Sheila Gaffney (sheilagaffney gmail.com)
Looking at the last comment about deodorant, the tussie-mussie was used by ladies to ward off the bad odors of the day! Not a lot of bathing done in those days! They would be held up to their noses to ward off bad odors!
Sheila Gaffney, Nashville, Tennessee
From: Gordon Weakliem (gweakliem yahoo.com)
This one is so timely. My eldest daughter’s birthday is today. She was a colicky infant and we nicknamed her “fussy mussy” back then. Fourteen years later she’s a brilliant young lady who loves words. Worth every minute of those first six months of colicky fussing.
Gordon Weakliem, Denver, Colorado
From: Alison Huettner (pondalorum aol.com)
I always understood that a tussie-mussie was a tiny vase worn as jewelry to hold your little bouquet of flowers. Not?
Alison Huettner, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
The word is sometimes used for the vase as well.
From: Robert Arndt (theveryword aol.com)
The actress Mrs. Patrick Campbell, after her marriage, allegedly extolled the “deep, deep peace of the double-bed after the hurly-burly of the chaise-longue.”
Robert Arndt, Houston, Texas
From: Carl Rosenberg (rosenberg.carl yahoo.ca)
My favourite usage of this term is the witches in Macbeth: “When the hurly-burly’s done, when the battle’s lost and won.”
Carl Rosenberg, Vancouver, Canada
From: Carolyn C Martin (carokei msn.com)
A number of women who attend or have attended Whitman College are members of the Gamma Gamma chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma in Walla Walla, Washington.
Carolyn C Martin, Litchfield, Connecticut
From: Arthur Silverstein (arts jhmi.edu)
Your series of duplicated words this week reminds me of the existence of analogous formations in many different languages. Sometimes they occur as entire words that may or may not rhyme; other languages may reduplicate only individual syllables within the word itself. These are employed variously to pluralize, or to emphasize. (Note the repeated use of reduplicative phrases for emphasis in the speeches of candidate Donald Trump!) But the most interesting use of word reduplication comes in its occasional application to new meaning formation. Here, the reduplicated word may be altered in form to express a modified meaning. This is precisely what takes place in evolution, where a gene is reduplicated along the chromosome, giving rise to new DNA which, serving no present function, may therefore be altered (by mutation) to provide useful new functions.
Arthur M. Silverstein, Woods Hole, Massachusetts,
From: Elaine Fear (elaine fearsome.plus.com)
Double Trouble in Walla Walla by Andrew Clements. This delightful but crazy book has amused my grandchildren ever since they were quite little! It is very American but the deluge of reduplicatives in the story makes us all laugh every time we read it!
Elaine Fear, Wargrave, UK
From: Dharam Khalsa (dharamkk2 gmail.com)
Dharam Khalsa, Espanola, New Mexico
From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
“Twas not my intention to drug her,”
Not mere argle-bargle but debate;
We hope that our friend Anu Garg’ll
Life’s a struggle and most of us find
No lilies please in my tussie mussie,
Miss Charlotte, a brazen young hussy,
At the wedding the bride’s tussie-mussie
‘When shall we three meet again?’
I have a friend named Shirley,
From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
To neutralize him, the woman decided to hugger-mugger.
The inexpensive diamond-patterned socks were a real argle-bargle. (Argyle bargain.)
The extra maids on hand kept the hoity-toity. (high tea tidy)
Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma
A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:Language is like money, without which specific relative values may well exist and be felt, but cannot be reduced to a common denominator. -George Santayana, philosopher (1863-1952)