Welcome to the website woven for wordaholics, logolepts, and verbivores. Carnivores eat meat; herbivores eat plants and vegetables; verbivores devour words. If you are heels over head (as well as head over heels) in love with words, tarry here a while to graze or, perhaps, feast on the English language. Ours is the only language in which you drive in a parkway and park in a driveway and your nose can run and your feet can smell.

U-T Columns

 

Very early in our lives as language users we start taking great pleasure in repeating playful sounds. In the crib and romper room we babble ma-ma , da-d, and bye-bye. Soon we are intoning such ditties as eeny meeny miny moe, fee fi fo fum and hickory dickory dock, not because they make a lot of sense to us, but because they satisfy a primal craving for rhythm and rhyme.

The appeal of such playful repetitions is especially evident in the story of Chicken Little (also known as Chicken Licken) and his friends Henny Penny, Cocky Locky, Ducky Lucky, Goosey Loosey and Turkey Lurkey and their nemesis Foxy Loxy.

These doublets are called reduplications, and some have intriguing origins. The hob in hob nob is a projection from a fireplace used to warm drinks; the nob is a table on which the drinks are placed — an appropriate setting for hob nobbing. A hodge podge was originally a stew of many ingredients and has broadened in meaning to signify a widely varied concoction, a mess. Willy-nilly issues from the phrase “will I, nill I?” nill being an obsolete word meaning “not to will, to refuse.” Many linguists attribute nitty-gritty to the Black English expression “grits like nits,” that is, “lice (nits) that are hard as grits.”

I invite you to discover the ubiquity of rhyming reduplications in our language by playing a super duper, handy dandy, okey dokey, razzle dazzle, hotsy totsy, tip top game. Match each clue in the left-hand column with the appropriate reduplication, or reduplications, in the right-hand column:

1. a kind of radio microphone boogie woogie
2. that which is basic bow-wow
3. an old stick-in-the-mud crumbum
4. a barrel organ even Stephen
5. characterizing the rabble flibberty gibberty
6. a dog’s bark fuddy duddy
7. wimpy fuzzy wuzzy
8. a suggestive dance handy dandy
9. outwardly affectionate hanky panky
10. Native American tent heebie-jeebies
11. Native American council helter skelter, pell mell
12. meaningless chatter herky jerky
13. short and pudgy hob nob
14. a call to gain attention hocus pocus, abracadabra
15. flashy hoi poloi, ragtag
16. useful and wonderful hoity toity
17. an equal split hoky poky
18. magician’s incantation hootchie-kootchie, fan tan
19. a type of blues music hugger-mugger
20. close friendship humdrum
21. furry hurdy gurdy
22. a confused state hurly burly, hustle bustle
23. boring, routine lovey dovey
24. erratic movement mumbo jumbo, folderol
25. sexual activity namby pamby
26. slow nitty-gritty
27. extreme nervousness okey dokey, super duper
28. snobbish palsy walsy
29. to socialize powwow
30. without plan razzle dazzle, hotsy totsy
31. uproar, tumult roly poly
32. to keep secret teeny weeny, itsy bitsy
33. expression of approval tepee
34. very small walkie-talkie
35. frivolous, flighty willy nilly
36. an unsavory character yoo hoo

 

Answers

  1. walkie-talkie 2. nitty-gritty 3. fuddy duddy 4. hurdy gurdy 5. hoi poloi, rag tag 6. bow-wow 7. namby pamby 8. hootchie-kootchie, fan tan 9. lovey dovey 10. tepee 11.powwow 12. mumbo jumbo,  folderol 13. roly poly 14. yoo hoo 15. razzle dazzle, hotsy totsy 16. handy dandy 17. even Stephen 18. hocus pocus, abracadabra 19. boogie woogie 20. palsy walsy 21. fuzzy wuzzy 22. helter skelter, pell mell 23. humdrum 24. herky jerky 25. hanky panky 26. hoky poky 27. heebie-jeebies 28. hoity toity 29. hob nob 30. willy nilly 31. hurly burly, hustle bustle 32. hugger-mugger 33. okey dokey, super duper 34. teeny weeny, itsy bitsy 35. flibberty gibberty 36. crumbum