"That's a great deal to make one word mean," Alice said in a thoughtful tone. "When I make a word do a lot of work like that," said Humpty Dumpty, "I always pay it extra."

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Rhyming Reduplications


Rhyming reduplications are words comprised of two parts (usually hyphenated) which rhyme.  

Classic examples are mish-mash, hodgepodge, helter-skelter, mumbo-jumbo, nitty-gritty, willy-nilly, helter-skelter, hocus-pocus, hanky-panky, higgledy-piggledy, rumpy-pumpy, topsy-turvy, shilly-shally, raggle-taggle, namby-pamby, fuddy-duddy and the more recent chick-flick. And, of course, who can forget Brian Hyland’s  “Itsy bitsy, teenie weenie yellow polka dot bikini” of 1960? 

Occasionally the words are written separately but on their own are meaningless such as pell mell.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013


A mish-mash is a confused mixture of things,; a hodgepodge; a jumbled conglomeration; 

The first known use of the word is to be found in the 15th century.  It is thought to originate from Middle English & Yiddish; Middle English mysse masche, perhaps reduplication of mash mash; Yiddish mish-mash, perhaps reduplication of mishn to mix.

There is also a reference to a place called Michmash in Nehemiah 7:31 in the Hebrew Scriptures but how relevant that is I don’t know.

Sunday, 1 September 2013


 Conjugalism as a word no longer exists - it is obsolete.  But hopefully the act it portrays still lives.  Conjugalism is the art of making a good marriage. Magazines have been attempting to teach us the art of conjugalism since at least 1823 according to Ammon Shea in 'Reading the Oxford English Dictionary'. Indeed, I bet there were writings on the subject in ancient Greece.  How sad that the word has fallen out of use.