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Phrases like "hanky-panky', 'legal eagle' and 'culture vulture' (and 'hodge-podge', which we'll take up later this week) are called reduplicatives, and many of them have an amusing, sardonic twinge. Out of the plethora of reduplicatives, we'll cherry-pick some special ones. Some have interesting histories; others, in honor of the current "Double Dactyl" thread on or board, are the rare gems that that pair three-syllable words.

higgledy piggledy – in utter disorder or confusion.

In the controversy that raged when Darwin first published his theory of natural selection, prominent scientist John Herschel contemptuously dismissed the theory as "the law of the higgledy-piggledy." More recently,
quote:
Labour voting [in 1983] was tested to destruction by a higgledy-piggledy, amateur, undisciplined rabble of a campaign that put forward hundreds of wild policies.
- The Observer, Sunday May 20, 2001

Amsterdam is a higgledy-piggledy kind of place, and it beguiles by never being quite what it seems to be.
- Sarah Crown, in The Guardian, November 20, 2002

As to etymology, take your choice between two theories of how today's word arose.
Etymology on-line: "1598, probably formed from pig and the animal's suggestions of mess and disorder."
Brewer, Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1898): "A higgler is a pedlar whose stores are all huddled together. Higgledy means after the fashion of a higgler’s basket; and piggledy is a ricochet word suggested by litter; as, a pig’s litter."
 
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arty-farty, airy-fairy and bierdy-wierdie all sum up certain types of people very well.

What happens if you are a Jewish comedian and have to question these phrases in an amusing manner (that doesn't cross the pond very well)? Would they have to say higgledy-piggledy-schmiggledy or arty-farty-schmarty?
 
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bierdy-wierdie
That's a new one on me!
Confused
 
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niminy-piminy – affectedly delicate or refined; mincing
Early in Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, Jo makes a perfect and characteristically blunt use of the term:

I hate affected, niminy-piminy chits! - Jo

Gilbert and Sullivan used an alternate form in Patience and in The Grand Duke.
quote:
A most intense young man, / A soulful-eyed young man,
An ultra-poetical, super-aesthetical, / Out-of-the-way young man!
A Japanese young man - / A blue-and-white young man -
Francesca di Rimini, miminy, piminy, / Je-ne-sais-quoi young man!
- Gilbert And Sullivan, Patience ('Blue-and-white' is probably a reference to blue and white china.)

Jack Straw make a statement most of which was loudly cheered by the Tories, and by nobody else at all. "The vandals desecrated the Cenotaph and defaced the statue of Sir Winston Churchill ..." said Mr Straw in that faintly nerdy, niminy-piminy voice he adopts for the most serious matters.
– Simon Hoggart, in The Guardian, May 3, 2000
 
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namby-pamby - weak, foolish or silly: She probably regarded us as a bunch of namby-pamby liberals.

AHD gives the origin from Ambrose Philips, a little-known poet whose verse incurred the sharp ridicule of his contemporaries Alexander Pope and Henry Carey. In poking fun at some children's verse written by Philips, Carey used the nickname Namby Pamby: "So the Nurses get by Heart Namby Pamby's Little Rhimes." Pope then used the name in the 1733 edition of his satirical epic The Dunciad. The first part of Carey's coinage came from Amby = Ambrose; 'pamby' repeated the sound with the initial of Philips's name.
 
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Quoting Graham: "arty-farty, airy-fairy and bierdy-wierdie all sum up certain types of people very well."

I had always heard artsy-fartsy. Is this a cross-the-pond difference or just a different word entirely?
 
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I had always heard artsy-fartsy. Is this a cross-the-pond difference or just a different word entirely?
The same word, just a variant. I've heard both used here so I don't think it's a UK/US thing.
 
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I will try my best to use the phrase niminy-piminy before the day is out.

Argy-bargy is something that used to happen quite often in ruigby matches. I suppose it still happens extremely often in Ice Hockey games.

Artsy-fartsy doesn't sound too familiar to me.

Lovely-jubbly, meaning money, almost counts.

A bierdy-wierdy would smoke a pipe, be vegetarian, wear sandals with socks and save whales as well as having a bierd. They are sadly a dying breed.
 
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It's always difficult to bring sad news, but you should know...
There was a great loss today in the entertainment world. The man who wrote the song "Hokey-Pokey" died. What was really horrible is that they had trouble keeping the body in the casket. They'd put his left leg in and ... well, you know the rest.
Big Grin
 
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tuppenny-ha'pennyBritish slang for anything inferior and trivial
quote:

The issue that we are discussing and which we should like to debate next week is the fact that we can pass an Act of Parliament about fundamental issues and next week any tuppenny ha'penny court in the land -- I do not mean that pejoratively -- can kick it into touch, send it across to the European Court and, however long it takes the European Court, the decision of this House and this Parliament is thrown into abeyance.
- Mr. Tony Marlow, House of Commons Debates, June 21, 1990
"Kick it into touch"? Help, please?
 
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Originally posted by Graham Nice:
Argy-bargy is something that used to happen quite often in ruigby matches. I suppose it still happens extremely often in Ice Hockey games.


I was sure you were wrong about this. I've seen and played a lot of hockey but have never encountered a particular manoeuvre called "argy-bargy". To be sure, I consulted the Canadian Oxford Dictionary and discoveed that you are correct! But, in Canadian ice hockey, we call it "fighting"! Wink

By the way, did you hear about the guy who bought a ticket to the fights, and a hockey game broke out instead? No? Well,never mind....
 
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"Kick it into touch"? Help, please?

That comes from both main varieties of football, Association Football and Rugby Football. "Touch" is the area outside the boundaries of the playing field. A defender will often kick a ball into touch to force a re-start of the game with a throw-in to enable the rest of his team to get organised (in rugby it's often an attacking ploy to gain ground as well, but we needn't go into that).

An idea that is "kicked into touch" is one that is rejected, necessitating a re-think.
 
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jiggery-pokery – some sources say "underhand scheming or behavior". Others say it must be dishonesty in words: "verbal misrepresentation intended to take advantage of you in some way".
Probably alteration of Scots joukery-pawkery, from jouk to dodge, cheat + pawk trick, wile. Think of it as a "cheating trick".
quote:
Before 1993, records were not routinely kept by British police forces of complaints about or recorded incidents of domestic violence. The true extent of "wife battering" was, therefore, an open field for speculation, guesswork and statistical jiggery-pokery.
- Neil Lyndon and Paul Ashton, Knocked for six: the myth of a nation of wife-batterers, The Sunday Times of London, Jan. 29, 1995


P.S. I see that "kicked into touch" is a sports term. Is "knocked for six" (for which I also need help) another?

[This message was edited by wordcrafter on Thu Mar 20th, 2003 at 19:11.]
 
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I see that "kicked into touch" is a sports term. Is "knocked for six" (for which I also need help) another?


Yes. It comes from cricket, although it is more usually "hit for six". If a batsman hits a ball so that it crosses the boundary of the playing field without bouncing on the ground he scores six runs. It is similar, I believe, to a batter in baseball hitting the ball into the bleachers and scoring a home run.

It is used metaphorically to describe the summary treatment of someone or something.
 
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hunky-dory - (slang or informal) perfectly satisfactory; fine
Wordcrafter note: This would refer to a situation, not a thing. Thus you might say, "Nobody's angry; everything's hunky-dory," but not, "This portrait is a hunky-dory likeness."

An interesting etymology:
1866, Amer.Eng., popularized c.1870 by a Christy Minstrel song.
- perhaps a reduplication of hunkey "all right, satisfactory" (1861), from hunk "in a safe position" (1847) New York City slang, from Du. honk "goal, home," from M.Du. honc "place of refuge, hiding place".
- A theory from 1876, however, traces it to Honcho dori, said to be a street in Yokohama, Japan, where sailors could find the sort of diversions sailors customarily enjoy.
- I gather that Hunkidori was the name of a breath freshener introduced in 1868.
 
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Warning: I have some trouble defining this one. Some sources emphasize some the other.

hugger-mugger – 1. secrecy; concealment (adj. clandestine)
2. disorderly confusion; muddle (adj. disorderly; jumbled)
one-look says, "ritual accompanied by complicated and purposeless activity that obscures and confuses: He engaged in the hugger-mugger of international finance."

The origin of hugger-mugger is also secret and confused. Perhaps from Anglo-Irish cuggermugger, a whispered gossiping, cogair, whisper. Perhaps from Scot. huggrie-muggrie; from hugger = to lie in ambush, mug = mist, muggard = sullen.

In this confusion we turn to the ultimate authority, whose thoughts seem appropriate in this time of war. Shakespeare, Hamlet IV.5; King Claudius speaking:
quote:
... O Gertrude, Gertrude,
When sorrows come, they come not single spies
But in battalions. First, her father slain:
Next, your son gone; and he most violent author
Of his own just remove: the people muddied,
Thick and unwholesome in their thoughts and whispers,
For good Polonius' death; and we have done but greenly,
In hugger-mugger to inter him: poor Ophelia
Divided from herself and her fair judgment
 
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