Fun with Words: Reduplication
Credit to the Phrase Finder website for much of the information on this topic.
I love words, and one of the great joys of maintaining this blog is getting to learn about, think about, and write about them. I find particular (and perhaps unusual) joy in learning the names of various wordy phenomena. For example, I’ve written previously about feghoots, eggcorns, mondegreens, paraprosdokians, back formations, portmanteau, and scesis onomatons, to name a few. All of these are terms I’ve learned via blogging. Today we’ll add another fun wordy word: reduplication.
Like most of these concepts, you are probably already familiar with reduplication. You just don’t likely know that there is a name for it. Reduplication refers to words formed through repetition of sounds. Examples include okey-dokey, film-flam, and pitter-patter. English is replete with these playful coinages. Many are baby words: tum-tum, pee-pee, boo-boo. Some are recent slang terms: bling-bling, hip hop, cray-cray. Many are quite old: pell mell, hobnob, helter-skelter (16th century), riff-raff (15th century) and willy-nilly (10th/11th century).
Phrase Finder identifies three types of reduplications: exact, rhyming, and ablaut.
Exact: Baby words are often exact reduplications, but there others in common parlance.
Rhyming: It is also considered reduplication when the second half of the word rhymes with the first. Product names are often formed this way.
Ablaut: Ablaut is a linguistics term for words that change form by shifting a vowel. This may be the most common way to form reduplications. Phrase Finder points out that most of these, for no known reason, begin with a short “i” sound.
There are lots of products with reduplicative names, too: Mellow Yellow, Slim Jim, Lite-Brite, Tic-Tacs, Nutter Butters, and Fruit Loops come to mind.
Words are fun, aren’t they? Wish I could dilly-dally a titbit longer, but I’ve got to say ta-ta.
Can you think of some reduplicates I’ve left out? Leave the below along with your comments.