Wednesday, September 13, 2017

September 13, 2017--Rhyming Reduplications CONTEST

"How was your sleep?" Rona wanted to know after waking up, "You were tossing and turning half the night."

"I woke up from a disturbing dream at about 3 AM and didn't get much sleep after that. I spent a lot of time feeling anxious. Maybe about what was going on down in Florida."

"Did you have the heebies or the jeebies?"

"The what?"

"The heebie-jeebies. I'm making a little joke to perk you up. You still seem distressed."

"I am a little bit, but thankfully I don't have the heebie-jeebies anymore. By the way, I love that expression--heebie-jeebies. I wonder about its etymology."

"Look it up when we get home. I don't have a clue. Could be interesting."

I did and here's what I found:

First of all there are quite a few expressions similar to heebie-jeebies. All are in effect rhyming two-phrased compounds where the phrases" are not actual words. Like, there is no meaning associated with either heebie or jeebies.

They are literally two made up expressions where the parts, only when fused together, are deemed to have meaning, to refer to something specific. And if they are disaggregated, split apart, they have nothing to do with the meaning of the expression. There is only meaning when they are paired. Thus, heebie-jeebies together means a state of nervous fear or anxiety.

And, of course, as is true for all parts of every language, there is a name for this class of expressions--rhyming reduplications.

Perhaps listing some of my favorites will make all of this clearer--

Handy-dandy (made up of two actual words)

From the research I subsequently did, I learned that--

New coinages of this kind often appeared at times of national confidence, when people are feeling outgoing and optimistic and are moved to express this in language. For example, during the 1920s and following the First World War when many nonsense word-pairs were coined--among them bee's-knees and, my current favorite, heebie-jeebies.

They often do have the sound of the Jazz Age, of bebop.

But many are of much older derivation. Willy-nilly is over a thousand years old and riff-raff dates from the 1400s. Helter-skelter, arsy-versy (a form of vice-versa) and hocus-pocus all date from the 16th century.

Of more recent vintages are bling-bling, boob-tube and hip-hop.

Don't you love this? The process of language building? Especially  as in these cases when it is about nothing more than the sheer enjoyment of word play.

Do you like this enough to participate in a contest?

Here's how it works--

Create a new rhyming reduplication. To be sure it's a new one, check it on Google.

Submit it and it's meaning via a response to this posting no later than midnight east coast time, September 15th. Also, it would help to include it in a sentence.

The winner will be announced on Monday, September 18th. 

The prize will be a $100 contribution in your name to any non-profit of your choice.

Good luck! Above all, have fun!

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