What Do You Call Words Like Wishy-Washy or Mumbo Jumbo?

atkins bookshelf wordsWords like wishy-washy or mumbo-jumbo, or any words that contain two identical or similar parts (a segment, syllable, or morpheme), are called reduplicative words or tautonyms. The process of forming such words is known as reduplication. In many cases, the first word is a real word, while the second part (sometimes nonsensical) is invented to create a rhyme and to create emphasis. Most reduplicative begin as hyphenated words, and through very common usage, eventually lose the hype to become single words. Regardless of their hyphenation, they underscore the playfulness of the English language. Here are some common reduplicatives (many function as nouns and verbs):

argle-bargle: nonsense; heated argument

argy-bargy: heated argument

boob-tube: television

boogie-woogie: blues-style music with a strong, fast beat; a dance to pop or rock music

chick flick: a movie primary for women

crisscross: intersecting straight paths or lines

dilly-dally: to waste time through indecision or loitering

ding-dong: the noise made by a bell

fiddle-faddle: a trademarked name for popcorn

flimflam: nonsense; to swindle

fuddy-duddy: a fussy or old-fashioned person

gewgaw: cheap, showy jewelry or thing

hanky-panky: improper behavior, typically sexual in nature

harum-scarum: impetuous

heebie-jeebies: a state of nervous fear, anxiety

helter-skelter: disorder or confusion; in disorderly haste

higgledy-piggledy: in a disorderly manner

hobnob: to mix socially, particularly with those of high social status

hocus-pocus: meaningless activity or talk, often to draw attention away from something

hodgepodge: a motley assortment of things

hoity-toity: snobbish

hokey-pokey: trickery; a song that describes the movements of a dance performed in a circle

hotchpotch: a motley assortment of things; a mutton stew with vegetables

hubba hubba: a phrase to express enthusiasm or approval

hubble-bubble: a hookah, an oriental tobacco pipe with a long flexible tube connected to a container where the smoke is cooled by passing through water

hubbub: chaotic noise created by a crowd of people; a busy, noisy situation

hugger-mugger: disorderly; secret

hullabaloo: a commotion

hurdy-gurdy: a musical instrument that makes music by rotation of a cylinder that is studded with pegs

hurly burly: busy or noisy activity

itty-bitty: very small

knickknack: a small object, often a household ornament, of little or no value

lovey-dovey: extremely affectionate or romantic

mishmash: a random assortment of things

mumbo jumbo: language or ritual causing, or intending to cause, confusion

namby-pamby: weak in willpower, courage or vitality

niminy-piminy: very dainty or refined

nitty-gritty: the most important details about something

okey-dokey: OK

pall-mall: a 16th century game in which a wooden ball was drive through an iron ring suspended at the end of an alley

pell-mell: in a rushed or reckless manner

pitter-patter: the sound of quick light steps; to move or make the sound of quick light steps

razzle-dazzle: showy, noisy activity designed to impress

riffraff: undesirable people

roly-poly: plump

shilly-shally: failing to act decisively

singsong: the repeated rising and falling of a person’s voice as they speak

so-so: neither very good nor very bad

super-duper: very good

teeny-weeny: very small, tiny 

teeter-totter: a seesaw

tick-tock: the sound of a clock ticking; making a ticking sound

tittle-tattle: light informal conversation for social occasions

topsy-turvy: upside down; in a state of confusion

voodoo: followers of a religion that involves witchcraft and animistic deities

walkie-talkie: portable two-way radio

wigwag: to move to and fro

willy-nilly: whether one likes it or not; haphazardly

wishy-washy: weak, feeble, lacking character

yada yada (or yadda yadda): used as a substitute for a longer predictable story; boring language

zigzag: a line or course with abrupt right and left turns; veering alternatively to right and left

Read related posts: What is the Longest Word in English Language?
Word Oddities: Fun with Vowels

What is an Abecedarian Insult?
Difficult Tongue Twisters
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What Rhymes with Orange?

Top Ten Most Relaxing Songs

atkins bookshelf musicAccording to a 2015 study by Stanford and Harvard Business Schools, health problems related to job stress (eg, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and decreased mental health) takes the lives of more than 120,000 Americans each year — more than the number of lives lost due to diabetes, influenza, or Alzheimers. The cost to the healthcare system? A staggering $180 billion per year.

So what can be done to reduce job-related stress? Short of climbing back into the womb, and immersing oneself in the most perfect environment of relaxation (weightlessness of amniotic fluid, warmth, and mother’s heartbeat), neuroscientists are prescribing a daily dose of super relaxing music. Dr. David Lewis-Hodgson and his colleagues at Mindlab International, a communication and brand research firm, conducted research to find out which songs had the greatest relaxing effect on participants. Subjects were connected to several sensors — measuring heart rate, rate of breathing, and blood pressure — and asked to solve challenging stress-producing puzzles while listening to music. One particular song, “Weightless” by Marconi Union, reduced the anxiety of participants by as much as 65%. Not surprisingly, Marconi Union worked with sound therapists to create a perfect blend of harmonies, rhythms, and bass lines to relax listeners, slowing down their heart rate, blood pressure, and levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.

So when you are feeling stressed at work, or at home, put on a pair of headphones and tune out, and tune in to the top ten most relaxing songs in the world:

1. Weightless by Marconi Union
2. Electra by Airstream
3. Mellomaniac (Chill Out Mix) by DJ Shah
4. Watermark by Enya
5. Strawberry Swing by Coldplay
6. Please Don’t Go by Barcelona
7. Pure Shores by All Saints
8. Someone Like You by Adele
9. Canzonetta Sull’aria by Mozart
10. We Can Fly by Rue du Soleil (Café Del Mar)

Read related posts: Top Ten Movie Songs
How Famous Singers Got Their Names
How Rock Bands Got Their Names

Origins of the Beatles Name
The Dark Side of the Moon Turns 40
Best Books for Music Lovers
How Many Music Genres Exist?
Greatest Songs of All Time
The Most Misinterpreted Songs
Song Titles That are Not Part of the Lyrics
What is the Longest Song Title?

For further reading: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/02/the-alarming-long-term-consequences-of-workplace-stress/385397/

Most Common Shakespeare Misquotes

atkins bookshelf quotationsIt is impressive to show off your literary erudition by quoting Shakespeare, but make sure you get it right, or as Hamlet advises: “Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue.” Even though some common quotations sound right — they sound Shakespearean, after all — they are, in fact, incorrect. Unfortunately, misquotations are perpetuated in print as well as with the aid of that mischievous rascal, the internet. In an effort to restore the lines at the Swan of Avon originally wrote them, the editors of Listverse.com have collected the top ten Shakespeare misquotes along with the actual quotes. Consider yourself corrected and be mindful of Lear’s advice to his daughter Cordelia, “Mend thy speech a little/Lest it mar your fortunes…”

1. Play: King John
Misquote: “Gild the lily”
Actual Quote: “To gild refined gold, to paint the lily”

2. Play: The Tragedy of Macbeth
”Misquote: “Lead on, Macduff”
Actual Quote: “Lay on, Macduff, and damned be him who first cries ‘Hold! enough!’”

3. Play: The Tragedy of Macbeth
Misquote: “Bubble bubble, toil and trouble.”
Actual Quote: “Double, double toil and trouble.”

4. Play: The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark
Misquote: “Methinks the lady doth protest too much”
Actual Quote: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

5. Play: The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark
Misquote: “Alas, poor Yorick. I knew him well.”
Actual Quote: “Alas, poor Yorick. I knew him, Horatio – a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy.”

6. Play: The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark
Misquote: “The rest is science”
Actual Quote: “The rest is silence”

7. Play: The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet
Misquote: “A rose by any other name smells just as sweet.”
Actual Quote: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet.”

8. Play: The Tragedy of King Richard III
Misquote: “Now is the winter of our discontent.”
Actual Quote: “Now is the winter of our discontent / Made glorious summer by this sun of York.”

9. Play: King Henry the Fourth, Part One
Misquote: “Discretion is the better part of valour.”
Actual Quote: “The better part of valour is discretion”

10. Play: The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark
Misquote: “To the manor born”
Actual Quote: “but to my mind,—though I am native here and to the manner born,—it is a custom more honour’d in the breach than the observance.”

Bonus. Play: The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet
Quote: “Romeo, Romeo… Wherefore art thou Romeo?”
The problem with this quote is not getting the words wrong, but in getting the meaning wrong. The definition of “wherefore” is not “where” (as in “where the hell are you, Romeo?”) but rather “why.” In the play, Juliet is asking Romeo why he is a Montague, making him an enemy to her family; in other words: WTF! Why did you have to be a member of the Montague family and complicate our relationship?

For further reading: Why Study Shakespeare?
Shakespeare 400 Years On: Part 1
 The Shakespeare Thefts: In Search of the First Folio
Who Are the Greatest Shakespeare Characters?

Best Edition of Shakespeare’s Sonnets
The Most Common Myths About Shakespeare
Shakespeare the Pop Song Writer
Random Fascinating Facts About Shakespeare
Most Common Nicknames for Shakespeare
Most Beautiful Books of Shakespeare’s Sonnets
Were Shakespeare’s Sonnets Written to a Young Man?
What Dictionary Did Shakespeare Use?
Shakespeare’s Portrait as A Young Man Discovered

Most Common Nicknames for Shakespeare
Most Beautiful Books of Shakespeare’s Sonnets
Were Shakespeare’s Sonnets Written to a Young Man?

What Dictionary Did Shakespeare Use?

For further reading: http://listverse.com/2008/09/15/top-10-shakespeare-misquotes/

In the Company of Books and Their Characters

catkins-bookshelf-literature“My father had let a small collection of books in a little room upstairs, to which I had access (for it adjoined my own) and which nobody else in our house ever troubled. From that blessed little room, Roderick Random, Peregrine Pickle, Humphrey Clinker, Tom Jones, the Vicar of Wakefield, Don Quixote, Gil Blas, and Robinson Crusoe, came out, a glorious host, to keep me company. They kept alive my fancy, and my hope of something beyond that place and time.”

From David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. Dickens’ eighth novel, published in serial form in 1849-50, is considered to be his most autobiographical. Not surprisingly, it came to be Dickens’s favorite novels, as affirmed in the preface to a later edition, published in 1867: “[Like] many fond parents, I have in my heart of hearts a favourite child. And his name is David Copperfield.”

Read related posts: Saying Goodbye to a Novel’s Characters
Why Read Dickens?
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Who Are the Most Influential Characters of Literature?
The Power of Literature

What is an Auto-Antonym?

atkins bookshelf wordsGlad you asked. An auto-antonym is a word that has two contradictory meanings; that is to say, it means one thing as well as the exact opposite of that first meaning. Because of this, depending on how the auto-antonym is used in a sentence, it can create an ambiguous sentence. For example: She was very good at dusting. Dusting can mean removing fine particles (as in dusting the furniture) or adding fine particles (as in dusting a cake). Here is a list of the most common auto-antonyms in English.

1. Quick
2. Firmly

1. Standard
2. Completely new

1. To cut or trim
2. To attach

1. A typical practice
2. Intended for a specialized purpose

1. To supervise
2. To make a mistake

1. Good enough
2. Very nice

1. To fasten
2. To come apart or collapse

1. To separate two things
2. To cling

1. Legal tender
2. An invoice

1. To fasten
2. To run quickly

Read related posts: What is the Longest Word in English Language?
Word Oddities: Fun with Vowels
What is an Abecedarian Insult?
Difficult Tongue Twisters
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For further reading: The Book of Word Records by Asher Cantrell (2013)

The Dog’s Uncanny Power to Understand

catkins-bookshelf-literatureDogs have a way of nestling comfortably next to humans. Indeed, in a short time, they nestle around our hearts, imbuing our imperfect lives with ineffable joy and the apotheosis of adoration — a love that is so innocent, so pure. 


Sometimes it seems as if a dog can sense
One’s thoughts more quickly than a human can;
They know the moments that are dark and tense—
When worries have upset life’s general plan.
And I have seen them gazing into space
At such a time, as if they almost knew
That any gesture would be out of place
Unless one asked for it. How very few
Of all the wise and learned of earth possess
This strange, uncanny power to understand
Man’s deepest moods of utter loneliness,
When naught but silence meets the heart’s demand.

By American poet, Margaret Bruner (1886-1970)

Read related post: Most Famous Dogs in Literature
Do Dogs Make Us Better People?
Epitaph to a Dog
The Best Movies for Dog Lovers
Best Dog Novels
Ancient Epitaph to a Dog
A Moving Tribute to a Dog
Best Quotes About the Loss of a Pet Dog

For further reading Doggerel: Poems About Dogs edited by Carmela Ciuraru (2003)

30 Books Everyone Should Read

catkins-bookshelf-literatureOne of the most common questions young readers ask is: what books should I read? You could recommend literary critic Harold Bloom’s Western Canon — an comprehensive list of the most important and influential books, ranging from The Epic of Gilgamesh to Tony Kushner’s Angels in America. Containing more than 800 works, that list may prove to be a bit intimidating. Fortunately, the editors of Lifehack, dedicated to improving all aspects of your life, have developed a list of the 30 books that everyone should read to increase your LI (literary intelligence):

1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
2. 1984 by George Orwell
3. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
4. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
6. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
7. The Diary Of A Young Girl by Anne Frank
8. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
9. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
10. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
11. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
12. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
13. Animal Farm by George Orwell
14. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
15. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
16. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
17. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
19. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
20. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
21. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
22. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
23. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
24. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
25. Wuthering Heights Emily Bronte
26. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
27. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
28. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
29. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
30. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

For further reading: 50 Books That Will Change Your Life
The Books That Shaped America
The Books that Influence Us
What to Read Next

For further reading: http://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/30-books-that-everyone-should-read-least-once-their-lives.html

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