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AWADmail Issue 729

A Weekly Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Tidbits about Words and Language

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From: Mark McAllister-Jones (MMcAllister-Jones wfw.com)
Subject: Hugger-mugger

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)
Subject: Hugger-mugger

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)
Subject: hugger-mugger

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)
Subject: Hugger-Mugger

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)
Subject: hugger-mugger

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)
Subject: Hugger Mugger

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)
Subject: Hugger Mugger

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)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--hugger-mugger

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)
Subject: argle-bargle

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)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--argle-bargle

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.

-Anu Garg

From: Sheila Gaffney (sheilagaffney gmail.com)
Subject: tussie-mussie

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)
Subject: tussie-mussie

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)
Subject: tussie-mussie

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.
-Anu Garg

From: Robert Arndt (theveryword aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--hurly-burly

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)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--hurly-burly

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)
Subject: Reduplicatives

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)
Subject: Word reduplication

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)
Subject: Double Trouble in Walla Walla

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)
Subject: Anagrams of this week’s words

The anagram to the right is composed of the letters in the five words below, plus this heading:
1. hugger-mugger
2. argle-bargle
3. hoity-toity
4. tussie-mussie
5. hurly-burly
1. clandestinely
2. vigorous argument
3. haughty, high thoughts of superiority
4. her sweet little flower spray (a bumblebee might aim to light here)
5. suggests disorder
The text in the right box is an anagram of the text in the left.
Dharam Khalsa, Espanola, New Mexico

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Limericks

“Twas not my intention to drug her,”
says Bill.”I just wanted to hug her.
You think I’m the sort
to be lugged into court
and accused of some dumb hugger-mugger?”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

Not mere argle-bargle but debate;
what they say can determine our fate.
We must measure each word
that we’ve read or we’ve heard
to evaluate each candidate.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

We hope that our friend Anu Garg’ll
continue his fight, and his spark’ll
enlighten the heads
of those voters misled,
bombarded by hard argle-bargle.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

Life’s a struggle and most of us find
while we seem to fall further behind,
hoity-toity elite
have the world at their feet.
Not what our Founding Dads had in mind.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

No lilies please in my tussie mussie,
said my most favorite hussy, Gussie.
When there’s a breeze
they make me sneeze.
I’m sorry to be so fussy, fussy.
-Mary Gregg, Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania (greggmgg hotmail.com)

Miss Charlotte, a brazen young hussy,
With men wasn’t discreet or fussy.
She turned none away,
If they promised to pay,
And include a fresh tussie-mussie.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodth snet.net)

At the wedding the bride’s tussie-mussie
Was caught by a brazen young hussy.
“It looks like I’m next!”
She told friends in a text,
“If concerning my past he’s not fussy.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

‘When shall we three meet again?’
These words from long-dead Shakespeare’s pen.
‘When the hurly burly’s done,
When the battles lost and won.’
Macbeth had no time to count to ten!
-Lestie Mulholland, Johannesburg, South Africa (rapallo1 telkomsa.net)

I have a friend named Shirley,
Who liked to get up early,
With ten siblings she’d dwell,
And one bathroom, t’was hell,
Mornings were hurly-burly.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
Subject: double-trouble

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)

She was a bit tussie-mussie when applying deodorant. The Kentucky farmer loaded the tobacco bales in a hurly-burly manner.

Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma

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)

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