Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Reduplications, or an "eency-weency" literary lesson
I was reading William Holloway's General Dictionary of Provincialisms, published in London in 1840, and ran across a new word that I had to share: frobly-mobly. It's a reduplicative word meaning one is "indifferently well." (Reduplicative words, common in many languages, are still used regularly in English . . . although I suspect frobly-mobly is now extinct in the lexicon of daily usage. There are three different kinds of reduplicative words: the rhyming variety, with examples like hocus-pocus, hanky-panky, higgledy-piggledy (a personal favorite), and razzle-dazzle; exact reduplications, like bye-bye and choo-choo; and ablaut reduplications with their contrasting vowels sounds, like wishy-washy, chit-chat, and zig-zag.) So the next time someone asks how you're doing, reply with an earnest "frobly-mobly."