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AWADmail Issue 240

December 24, 2006

A Weekly Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Other Interesting Tidbits about Words and Languages

From: Anu Garg (garg wordsmith.org)
Subject: Interesting stories from the net

So, What's This Globish Revolution?

Still Raining, Still Reading:
Seattle Times

From: Amanda Kentridge (amandak 012.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--bling-bling

In Israel there is a species of person know as the "chakh-chakh".

Chakhchakh'im are likely to wear bling-bling, talk with many bleepbleeps, make their tusstuss (scooters) go beepbeep before the light turns green and use a nafnaf at the mangal (bbq) to fan the coals. Most normal Israelis say ikhsa-pikhsa (yuck) about them.

From: Bruce Propert (bpropert propert.com.au)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--jimjams

The other colloquial meaning for "jimjams", which many in Australia (and other Commonwealth countries) are familiar with, is pyjamas. We look forward to getting into our jimjams at night, and associate them with restful sleep rather than nervousness and jitters.

From: Srikant Subramaniam (srikant_s yahoo.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--jimjams

Isn't the word also used to refer to "pajamas"? I was in New Zealand last year and was introduced to the most delightful experience of Tim Tam Slam (aka tim tams in your jim jams) :-)

From: Linda Owens (lindafowens netzero.net)
Subject: Double names

Walla Walla and Baden Baden are just a few of these place names, but try a detailed map of Australia if you want so many you can't stand it.

From: Nicole Lezin (lezin mindspring.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--bling-bling

There's a terrific children's book on this subject: Double Trouble in Walla Walla, by Andrew Clemens. It's about a little girl (Lulu, of course!), who launches an infectious outbreak of reduplicatives in her school. It all starts when she tells her teacher, "Mrs. Bell, I feel like a nit-wit. My homework is all higgledy-piggledy. Last night it was in tip-top shape, but now it's a big mish-mash."

This charming book led to an outbreak of reduplicatives in my family, too. ("How was your mahi-mahi?" "Just so-so . . .")

Thanks for the super-duper words you send our way!

From: Josh Stailey (jstailey thepursuitgroup.com)
Subject: Reduplicatives

Your description of the word category "reduplicatives" triggered the memory of the entry in the annual Bulwer-Lytton contest:

"The double agent looked up from his lunch of Mahi-Mahi and couscous and realized that he must escape from Walla Walla to Bora Bora to come face-to-face with his arch enemy by taking out his 30-30 and shooting off his nemesis's ear-to-ear grin so he could wave bye-bye to this duplicitous life, but the chances of his pulling this off were only so-so, much less than 50-50."

From: Owen Biesel (obiesel u.washington.edu)
Subject: Reduplication

In linguistics, reduplication can also refer to the repetition of a word or phrase in a sentence. In English, we have several examples of contrastive and focus reduplication, as in: "You make the tuna salad, and I'll make the salad salad." "Do you like him, or do you like like him?" (In both cases, the first of the repeated words is emphasized during speech.) Both of these examples appeared in a research paper discussing this phenomenon in English, which is now commonly known in linguistic circles as "the salad-salad paper".

From: Alexis Abraham (cawaaahome aol.com)
Subject: Reduplicatives in verse

There is this poem "By the Shores of Pago Pago" by Eve Merriam:

By the Shores of Pago Pago

Mama's cooking pots of couscous,
Papa's in the pawpaw patch,
Bebe feeds the motmot bird,
and I the aye-aye in its cage,
More here.

From: Victor Lund (vlund mahoney-law.com)
Subject: Reduplicatives

The theme of reduplicatives strikes a responsive chord in readers of Proust. The narrator of Remembrance of Things Past asks for an introduction to the Prince d'Agrigente at the Guermanteses' dinner party in The Guermantes Way and learns that the Prince goes by his reduplicative nickname, Gri-Gri. Proust then thinks of all his other acquaintances with reduplicative nicknames such as Bebeth, or Lili. He further notes that the practice is not limited to the upper crust since every other prostitute in Paris at the time calls herself Kiki.

From: John W Smith (jwsmith20 hotmail.com)
Subject: reduplicative words

Such words exist in many languages. A linguist and I (a political scientist) drafted an article that was never published on such words in Arabic, German, Spanish, and English. We found most were associated with speech appropriate for children, for example a new-born in Arabic is a boo-boo new-new. In Engish a minor cut or abrasion in child-speak would be a boo-boo. Again in Arabic, apricot-colored lace translates as mish-mish kesh-kesh.

My favorite example is from ancient Greek, in which a non-Greek is one who speaks guttural, unintelligible sounds that were heard as bar-bar, hence the etymology for barbarian.

From: Dr. Alexis Melteff (aapm52 yahoo.com)
Subject: reduplicatives

This week's theme brings to mind a story often attributed to George Bernard Shaw. At a dinner he was attending, the hostess cut in half the baba au rhum she served for dessert. When he was offered one, Shaw said, "Thank you, Madam, I shall have a ba."

From: Daiva Miller (jone.miller fcps.edu)
Subject: Reduplicatives

Reduplicatives are mentioned by Steven Pinker in his wonderful book, The Language Instinct. As you have noted, there are several varieties of reduplicatives. My favorite is one where the initial consonant changes --as in razzle-dazzle, heebie-jeebies and fatcat.

A few years ago, while doing linguistics grad work in phonology in one of Professor Steven Weinberger's classes at George Mason University, a fellow grad student and I collected samples of "razzle-dazzlisms" from English as well as other languages and tested both adults' and children's consonant preferences for the order of the initial consonants in nonsense examples. Our paper was published in Working Papers in Linguistics, a GMU Linguistics journal in 1998.

For those interested in the results, we made some interesting and surprising discoveries about the consonant [h] and confirmed the vibrancy of a Syllable Contact Law in American English. (Judging from the many examples we collected from other languages, it's alive and well there too.)

From: Esmeralda Mudd (emudd comcast.net)
Subject: Reduplicatives

Today's New York Times crossword puzzle contained an unusual clue: 2D: Hat made of jipijapa [answer panama].

    Jipijapa is a palmlike plant, named after Jipijapa, a town in Ecuador. -Anu Garg (garg wordsmith.org)

From: Dan Wolaver (dan wolaver.org)
Subject: reduplicatives

I've been collecting reduplicatives for a couple years now, and I've posted them on my Web site.

From: Janet Bass Smith (jlbsmithpiano insightbb.com)
Subject: Use of the daily words

Thanks for all the great words! I am a summer seasonal park ranger guide at Mammoth Cave National Park. We have many college students who are also summer seasonals and I like to challenge them to use some of the Words of the Day in their talks on the tours they are guiding that day. We are told to use words that are about the 8th grade level, so some of the talks become quite interesting when a guide works in a word like erythrophobia or portmanteau. We have great fun with this, and I have had several of the guides subscribe to Word of the Day.

Words are a mirror of their times. By looking at the areas in which the vocabulary of a language is expanding fastest in a given period, we can form a fairly accurate impression of the chief preoccupations of society at that time and the points at which the boundaries of human endeavour are being advanced. -John Ayto, lexicographer (1949- )

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