Crinkum-crankum and Ablaut Reduplications With Examples

Crinkum-crankum and Ablaut Reduplications With Examples

Hello friend! I have something interesting to share with you. Have you ever come across certain witty expressions or hyphenated words like Crinkum-crankum, bric-a-brac, namby-pamby, nitty-gritty, higgledy-piggledy, etc. and you wondered what English terminology we use in describing them? Well, they are known as Freezes or Reduplications. This post, Crinkum-crankum and Ablaut Reduplications With Examples, gives insight into their list and different types Freezes and Reduplications we have in English.

Language and Humour

There is a sense of humour in almost every language in the world and English is no exception. See the post, The Eccentric Nature of the English Language. There are some words in English that are onomatopoeic; their meanings can be deduced from their sounds. Some other English words are plain amusing in the way they are constructed. The structure of Freezes and Reduplications, in all their types and forms, apparently evoke some sense of humour. While some of these words are not completely onomatopoeic, some are; like pitter-patter and ‘teeny-weeny’, etc.

Nigerians and Crinkum-crankum

Many Nigerians will not forget in a hurry, Hon. Patrick Obahiagbon, an erstwhile bombastic and magniloquent member of the House of Assembly who enjoys spewing out verbalism with a locomotive concatenation at the expense of the comprehension of his fellow lawmakers and the generality of Nigerians. As a well-read legal luminary and experienced parliamentarian, he claims that there was no deliberate attempt to confuse or obfuscate his audience in a state of hugger-mugger; but as an omnivorous, elliptical and a polyvalent reader, he has taken it upon himself to know the meaning of every word he comes across asserting that those words spew out of him like the rattle of the gun, and this, he claimed, was beyond his control. He was popular for the use of crinkum-crankum among many other grandiloquent words characteristic of him.

What are Freezes or Reduplications?

We shall examine each of these special expressions known as Freezes or Reduplications, but let us first check out their definitions. Freezes or Reduplications are a special class of words or expressions in which the ordering of the two conjuncts that formed them is rigidly fixed in normal speech. Marge E. Landsberg in his article titled, Semantic Constraints on Phonological Independent Freezes posits: In English syntax, word order is not arbitrary but fixed or ‘frozen’; that is, governed by certain rigorous and recurrent rules, and hence predictable and generalizable. So Freezes and Reduplications follow certain linguistic rules.

Types of Freezes or Reduplications in English

There are generally three types of these special classes of words. They are:

  1. Ablaut Reduplications
  2. Rhyming Reduplications
  3. Exact Reduplications

I have dedicated a post to discuss Rhyming Reduplications. Also I have another interesting post on Exact Reduplications. Do well to check out both posts. I focus on Ablaut Reduplications in this post. Enjoy and share with your friends.

Ablaut Reduplications: A Definition

The word ‘ablaut’ refers to a systematic variation of vowels in the same root or affix or in related roots or affixes especially in the Indo-European languages that is usually paralleled by differences in use or meaning (as in sing, sang, sung, song). Put in another way, it also means any change in the quality or length of a vowel within a word indicating certain distinctions, such as inflectional or tense differentiations. Examples of ablaut reduplications include: chit-chat, criss-cross, ding-dong, jibber-jabber, knick-knack, pitter-patter, splish-splash, zig-zag, flimflam, etc. One thing about ablaut reduplications is that the vowel in the first word is a high vowel while in the reduplicated ablaut variant, the vowel is a low one. Also, the front vowel usually comes before back vowel.

Crinkum-crankum and Ablaut Reduplications With Examples

It is not just enough to highlight these Freezes or Reduplications by way of definition or by telling you the different types that exist, this post will not be complete if we do not look at the meanings of these freezes or reduplication severally with illustrative examples so that you can add them to your linguistic repertoire! It is when you have internalised them that you have truly learnt them! I will break them into a not-too-long segments for easy assimilation. Here we go!

Ablaut Reduplication List 1

Bibble-babble – idle talk

  • Malvolio, Malvolio, thy wits the heavens restore! Endeavour thyself to sleep, and leave thy vain bibble-babble. (Act IV. Scene II. Twelfth-Night; or, What You Will)

Bingle-bangle – (adjective) fickle, vacillating or irresolute.

  • “Why after all, to use her own expression, that he is but a bingle-bangle man, and that no good will come on him…” (Tremaine, or The Man of Refinement by Robert P. Ward, Volume II. 1825, Chapter XXV. Mutual Confidence, P. 234)

Chiff-chaff – a common European bird or warblers with a yellowish-brown plumage; a near relative of the willow-warbler and wood-warbler, which it much resembles. To utter the notes of the chiff-chaff.

  • In every tree in the garden a thrush woke up and began to sing; sparrows chirped, jays screamed, blue-tits chattered, and the chiff-chaff uttered his strange note. (The Sleeping Beauty)

Chip-chop – broken; unmusical. A name of the chiff-chaff (noun).

  • Wood was plentiful enough, and the chip-chop of the axes was heard all day long… (Mass’ George A Boy’s Adventures in the Old Savannah)

Chit-chat – small talk: casual conversation or small talk, or a casual conversation with somebody; gossip or mindless banter.

To engage in small talk, to discuss unimportant matters. (Verb)

  • The supervisor comes up and tries to chit-chat with me about the gym and how nice it is.

Chitter-chatter – light and lively discussion; trivial, nonsensical, or incessant talk.

  • Before the film began, there was no audience chitter-chatter.

Click-clack – a succession of clicks or of alternating clicks and clacks.

  • The click-clack of the pendulum of the old grandfather clock is amusing.
  • The click-clack of laptop note-taking intensified.

Clink-clank – a usually repeated noise made up of generally alternating clinks and clanks.

Clinkum-clankum – a rhythmic clink-clank.

Ablaut Reduplication List 2

Clip-clop – the sound made by or as if by a horse walking on a hard surface.

  • We heard the slow clip-clop of the horses as the parade passed by.
  • The horse-drawn carriage clip-clopped down the street. (Intransitive verb)

Clipper-clapper – The clipper-clapper stick is a fun musical toy for young children from German toy makers Haba. It encourages children to experiment with rhythm and music.

  • A million thoughts wake up in me and clipper-clapper goes my tongue.
  • She bought a clipper-clapper for her daughter.

Clish-clash – gossip.

Clitter-clatter – idle talk, chatter.

  • But you fair take my breath away with your everlastin’ hurry-skurry, clitter-clatter. (The Sun Maid by Evelyn Raymond)

Crick-crack – a repeated sharp cracking sound (noun). To emit a repeated sharp cracking sound (verb). It is the same as ‘Cric-crac’.

Crickle-crackle – Same as ‘Crick-crack’.

Crinkle-crankle – A winding in and out, a zigzag. Also (as a mass noun): sinuosity; intricacy, complexity; convolution.

Twisting in and out, zigzag; sinuous, serpentine; intricate; convoluted. (Adjective)

Crinkly-crankly – Crooked, twisted; crumpled. (Adjective)

Crinkum-crankum – a word applied familiarly to things intricate or crooked; elaborate decoration or detail (noun/adjective).

  • Why did Captain Coppinger buy all my dear crinkum-crankums? (In the Roar of the Sea by Sabine Baring-Gould)

Criss-cross – a mark formed by two lines in the form of a cross, as the signature of a person unable to write his name: a child’s game played on a slate, the lines being drawn in the form of a cross (noun). Criss-cross to intersect frequently (verb intransitive)

  • His face was criss-crossed with tiny wrinkles.
  • We call this criss-cross inheritance.

Dibble-dabble – an expression describing only a partial participation in a given activity. A substitute for the expression “I dabble” and is often used facetiously.

  • Do you play soccer? ‘I dibble-dabble’ he replied.

Ablaut Reduplication List 3

Diddle-daddle – To waste time or take your time. To procrastinate or fritter away. To dilly-dally.

  • Don’t diddle daddle, we have to go now!

Dilly-dally – Waste time by not making up one’s mind, procrastinate and vacillate. Same as ‘diddle-daddle’.

Dimber-damber – a ‘handsome rascal’; a gang leader. A top man, or prince, among the canting crew: also the chief rogue of a gang.

Ding-dong – a fierce argument or fight.

  • They had a bit of a ding-dong.

A riotous party; a silly or foolish person.

The simple alternate chimes of or as of a bell (adverb).

  • The church bells go ding-dong.

Energetically or wildly (adjective)

  • Her biological clock is going ding-dong.

(Of a contest) evenly matched and hard fought.

  • The game was an exciting ding-dong battle.

Dingle-dangle –hanging loose; swinging backwards and forwards; in a dangling manner.

Drip-drop – to fall or let fall in drops; a falling in drops; trickling; the sound of a liquid falling drop by drop

  • Now, in this dusty country of ours, what I yearn for is to hear the drip-drop of rain beating against leaves.
  • Besides, the rain stopped in perfect timing as we exited the church and headed over to the reception, leaving us with a little drip-drop once in a while!
  • All I heard was the ominous drip-drop of water trickling from the roof, and the rapid thudding of my heart.

Fible-fable – nonsense.

Fiddle-faddle – nonsense or trifling matters (noun).

Nonsense: used to express the view that something is nonsense (Interjection).

To fuss or waste time, especially over trivial or unimportant matters. (Intransitive verb)

Flipperty-flopperty – loose and floppy (noun).

That goes flip-flap, loose, dangling (adjective).

  • He was donning a flipperty-flopperty hat

Gibble-gabble – (noun) senseless chatter. Noisy foolish gabble.

Verb (used without object), to engage in gibble-gabble.

Ablaut Reduplication List 4

Giff-gaff – dialectal, British: mutual assistance: fair exchange (often used in proverbs) exchange of words: banter, repartee

  • Giff-gaff makes good fellowship
  • Kate and her lads were used to maintain swift giffgaff

To bandy words: banter (intransitive verb)

Higgle-haggle – to bargain, esp. in a petty way; haggle.

  • After some little higgle-haggling he bought it!!

Hip-hop – a style of popular music of US black and Hispanic origin, featuring rap with an electronic backing; a subculture especially of inner-city youths who are typically devotees of rap music; the stylized rhythmic music that commonly accompanies rap; a type of popular music in which the words are spoken rather than sung and the subject of the songs is often politics or society.

  • I listen to hip-hop and reggae. (noun)
  • He is a hip-hop artist. (adjective)

Jibber-jabber – rapid and excited speech that is difficult to understand (noun).

  • Enough jibber-jabber from me; let’s get on with the story!

Talk in a rapid and excited way that is difficult to understand (verb).

  • He was jibber-jabbering with his wife through the entire first piece.

Jiggy-joggy – to move with jigs or jogs: bounce jerkily up and down in proceeding: jolt repeatedly up and down.

Jim-jam – (noun) jitters (a sense of panic or extreme nervousness); the state of mind or the movement of one that jitters; irregular random movement (as of a pointer or an image on a television screen); also vibratory motion. When jimjams entered English in the mid-19th century, it probably referred to a specific kind of jitters – the “delirium tremens,” a violent delirium caused by excessive drinking. Jimjams is not particularly common today, but when it is used in current American English it means simply jitters.

Jingle-jangle –make a sound typical of metallic objects; make noise, resound, emit a noise (verb). Synonymous to ‘jangle’, ‘jingle’.

Ablaut Reduplication List 5

Knick-knack – a small inexpensive mass-produced article; one of a class of artifacts; miscellaneous curios; a small trivial article usually intended for ornament. Small worthless objects, especially household ornaments. Synonyms: bric-a-brac, knick-knackery, nick-nack, whatnot.

  • The room was filled with tables, knick-knacks, and a large three-piece suite.

Lib-lab – characterizing cooperation between the Liberal and the Labour party in the UK in the 20th century (adjective).

  • It was a Lib-Lab pact.

Ling-long – Ling Long (meaning Elegant and Fine in English) was a Chinese language weekly women’s magazine published in Shanghai, China, from 1931 to 1937. It was one of the most popular women’s magazine in China during its lifetime; a clink of jewels, nimble, clever, detailed and fine. Exquisite.

Loch-leech – a leech; especially the medicinal leech, Hirudo medicinalis.

Mingle-mangle – a usually confused mixture or medley: hodgepodge; a motley assortment of things; a collection containing a variety of sorts of things – assortment, miscellanea, miscellany, mixed bag, mixture, motley, potpourri, salmagundi, smorgasbord, variety

Synonyms: farrago, gallimaufry, hodgepodge, hotchpotch, melange, mishmash, oddments, odds and ends, omnium-gatherum, ragbag, etc.

Mish-mash – a confused mixture;

  • He has a mishmash of outmoded ideas

Synonyms: jumble, mess, confusion, hotchpotch, hodgepodge, ragbag, pastiche, patchwork, farrago, hash, assortment, medley, miscellany, mixture, melange, blend, variety, mixed bag, mix, diversity, collection, selection, assemblage, combination, motley collection, pot-pourri, conglomeration, etc.

Mixty-maxty – oddly mixed or jumbled together; motley; muddled, confused. A confused or heterogeneous mixture; an assortment, a jumble (adjective).

Moon-man – (noun) a lunatic; a Gipsy.

  • After years of being denied a moon-man, Britney won every single award she was nominated for this year.

Muster-master – an officer or official charged with keeping a muster roll; an officer in charge of the muster roll of part of an army or (less commonly) of a dockyard, penal colony, etc.; a person responsible for the accuracy of a muster roll.

Ablaut Reduplication List 6

Niddle-noddle – having an unstably nodding head,

Nodding (adjective).

To nod rapidly or unsteadily (verb). It is a reduplication of nod

Niddy-noddy – A tool used to make skeins from yarn, consisting of a central bar, with crossbars at each end, offset from each other by 90°. The central bar is generally carved to make it easier to hold. Niddy-noddies can be constructed of many different materials including wood, metal, and plastic.

Nid-nod – to nod repeatedly from drowsiness (verb).

Niff-naff – details, considerations, or pieces of information of little value or importance. A trifle, knick-knack, or petty detail (noun).

  • Do not worry about all this niff-naff.

To trifle or fool around (intransitive verb)

Nig-nog – taboo old-fashioned a very offensive word for a black person. Disparaging and offensive term for a black person; a very silly fellow. A shortened and reduplicated form of nigger.

Ning-nong – a fool; a stupid person

Ping-pong – another term for table tennis; something resembling a game of table tennis; a series of usually verbal exchanges between two parties (noun).

It was a ping-pong of absurdist dialogue (Lawrence O’Toole)

To move back and forth or transfer rapidly from one locale, job, etc., to another; switch (transitive verb)

  • The patient was ping-ponged from one medical specialist to another.

To go back and forth; change rapidly or regularly; shift; bounce (intransitive verb).

  • For ten years the foreign correspondent ping-ponged between London and Paris.

Pish-pash – a soup or stew containing rice and small pieces of meat, especially chicken. A broth of rice mixed with small bits of meat, much used as food for Anglo-Indian children (noun).

  • They served a pish-pash of left-overs for breakfast.

It also mean something silly, absurd; a possibly a variant of pish posh.

Ablaut Reduplication List 7

Pit-pat – with a quick succession of beats or taps; variant of pit-a-pat; describing a rhythmic beating (adverb).

  • Her heart beat pit-a-pat with excitement.
  • He came running pit-a-pat down the hall
  • His heart went pit-a-pat

The movement or the sound of something going pit-a-pat (noun).

  • There was a pit-a-pat of hail on the roof.

To go pit-a-pat (intransitive verb).

Pitter-patter – the sound of light rapid taps or pats, as of raindrops; a light tapping sound; a rapid succession of light sounds or beats: patter.

  • I heard the pitter-patter of the rats on the roof. (noun)
  • The rain fell pitter-patter on the window (adverb)

Plip-plop – a rhythmic sequence of light tapping, popping, or splashing sounds (noun). Representing such a rhythmic sequence of light sounds (exclamation).

Pot-peat – a small flowerpot formed of peat in which a plant can be grown and transplanted without having to be removed.

Prittle-prattle – trivial, idle, or childish talk; gossip or chatter; familiar conversation, small talk (noun). To chatter, gossip, or talk idly (verb).

Ribble-rabble – confused speech or language; meaningless chatter, rigmarole; babble, gabble; an instance of this. Motley, disorderly, or unruly people; rabble; (as a count noun) an unruly crowd. A mob: indecent language; row, a list of rabble (noun). Disorderly, confused; (of language or speech) rambling, gabbling, meaningless; (of persons, places, events, etc.) unruly, uncontrolled (adjective).

Rickety-rackety – ramshackle; unsteady, shaky (adjective).

Ric-rac – a narrow, zigzag braid or ribbon used as a trimming on clothing, linens, etc.

Riff-raff – an offensive term that deliberately insults somebody’s social status, importance, and manners (insult); worthless things: rubbish or worthless objects (informal).

Rip-rap – loose stone used to form a foundation for a breakwater or other structure.

  • The rock was used extensively for ballast and riprap.

Strengthen with riprap (verb)

  • There are incentives to keep landowners from riprapping riverbanks.

Ablaut Reduplication List 8

Rittle-rattle – representing a rattling sound (exclamation).

Rope-ripe – fit for being hanged; deserving punishment by hanging. One who deserves to be hung: rascal; of a deed: punishable by hanging; of a person: deserving to be hung. Obsolete: bombastic.

Scribble-scrabble – a shambling, ungainly fellow; hasty careless writing or drawing, esp. literary matter, of poor quality; meaningless or illegible marks. It is from the verb ‘scribble’ which means to ‘write or draw in a hasty or illegible manner, make meaningless or illegible marks (on). Derogatory or facetious: to write poetry, novels, etc.

  • The respectable lawyers who scribble-scrabble your deeds and your wills look the deaths of living people in the face. (The Woman in White)
  • As it stands, I am unable to get past your typos and misspellings … the idea gets lost in the scribble-scrabble. (Council Looking at Cafe Rules at

Scrip-scrap – a printed receipt, (noun, informal); to save a receipt (verb).

  • Scrip scrap the scrip scrap (save or hold on to the receipt).

Scrip-scrapping (verb) – act of saving receipts for future reference

Scrip-scrapped (adjective) – (referring to a receipt): stored, archived

  • I bought my groceries in such a hurry that I left before the cashier could pass me my scrip scrap.
  • To get the most out of your tax returns, you should be scrip-scrapping.
  • I’m not sure if the one I bought is the right one, so I scrip-scrapped my scrip scrap.
  • This comes with a 30-day free trial, don’t lose the scrip scrap!

Shilly-shally – indecision, unable to make up one’s mind.

Shim-sham – Shim-sham – a swing step with stamps, heel-beats, and runs

Ablaut Reduplication List 9

Sing-song – with repeatedly rising and falling intonation: having an intonation that regularly rises and falls in pitch (adjective). Rising and falling intonation: a way of speaking in which the voice rises and falls regularly in pitch; a verse marked by a singsong rhythm or rhyme (noun).

  • A sing-song voice repeatedly rises and falls in pitch.
  • He started to speak in a nasal sing-song voice.
  • A sing-song is an occasion on which a group of people sing songs together for pleasure.

Synonyms: droning, repetitive, monotonous, boring, etc.

Skimble-skamble – rambling and confused: senseless.

Slip-slop –South African term for flip-flop, a light sandal, typically of plastic or rubber, with a thong between the big and second toe.

A backward handspring, an abrupt reversal of policy.

  • His flip-flop on taxes is unnecessary

Of electronics, a switching circuit which works by changing from one stable state to another, or through an unstable state back to its stable state, in response to a triggering pulse.

Move with a flapping sound or motion (verb)

  • She flip-flopped off the porch in battered trainers.

Make an abrupt reversal of policy.

  • The candidate flip-flopped on a number of issues.

Slippy-Sloppy – too wet (of a substance) more liquid than it should be, often in a way that is unpleasant: (adjective)

  • The water was all slippy-sloppy in the larder and in the back passage.
  • Cows suffer permanent indigestion caused by their slippy sloppy grass diet.

Snipper-snapper – a small, insignificant fellow. See whipper-snapper.

Snip-snap – a series of snips with shears; clever quick repartee; a tart dialogue with quick replies (noun). To indulge in snip-snap, to make a snip-snap sound (intransitive verb); given to snip-snapping: snippy, snappish (adjective)

Spitter-spatter – the continuous explosive noise as made by gunfire; the rapid, tapping noise of rain.

  • We heard the spitter-spatter of both gunfire and rain.

Ablaut Reduplication List 10

Splish-splash – to make a repeated splashing sound (intransitive verb). A repeated splashing sound (noun).

Splishy-splashy – as a question; to ask if would be desirable to consume or purchase wine. A descriptive term for wine.

Swing-swang – a complete oscillation.

Swish-swash – a swishing action or sound: a washy drink. Slops; a wishy-washy beverage.

Teeny-tiny – teeny-tiny (comparative more teeny-tiny, superlative most teeny-tiny) (childish) Very small; tiny (adjective).

  • I’ve lost my earring and I’ll never find it! It’s teeny-tiny and it could be anywhere!

Tick-tack – a device for making a tapping sound, as against a window or door in playing a practical joke a repetitive sound; a sound as of ticking, tapping, knocking, or clicking (noun).

  • We heard the tick-tack of high heels in the corridor.

To make a repeated ticking or tapping sound: (intransitive verb)

  • Sleet tick-tacked against the window panes.

(Brit) a system of sign language, mainly using the hands, by which bookmakers transmit their odds to each other at racecourses (noun)

(US) a ticking sound, as made by a clock

Tick-tock – a steady recurrent ticking sound as made by a clock; an alternating ticking sound, as that made by a clock. (noun). To make a ticking sound; to emit or produce a ticking sound (intransitive verb)

Ticky-tacky – sleazy or shoddy material used especially in the construction of look-alike tract houses; building material that is cheap and of low quality; also, something built of ticky-tacky (noun). Of an uninspired or monotonous sameness (adjective). Synonyms: cheesy, dowdy, inelegant, styleless, tasteless, ticky-tacky (also ticky-tack), trashy, unfashionable, unstylish

Cheaply constructed; inferior or shoddy (adjective).

  • Local builders run up ticky-tacky boxes in the towns instead of restoring traditional architecture in the countryside.

Ting-tang – the alternating sound of two differently toned bells especially in a clock that sounds the quarter and half hours on only two bells.

Ablaut Reduplication List 11

Tip-tap – an alternating light knocking or tapping; also, the sound made by such tapping

Tip-top – of the highest quality or rank: exceptionally well (adverb).

Summit: the highest point; highest quality: the highest degree of quality or excellence (noun). Of the very best class or quality; excellent (adjective).

  • The athletes are in tip-top condition.

(American) a line guide on a fishing rod.

Tisty-tosty – a ball made of flowers.

Tetter-totter – a see-saw.

  • The school has a playground with swings and teeter-totters.

Teeter; waver (verb)

  • Between ego and object, we teeter-totter.

Tittle-tattle – casual conversation about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as true; idle gossip, foolish talk (noun).

  • She would never listen to tittle-tattle about another girl.

Engage in casual conversation about other people (verb).

Titty-totty – very small, extremely tiny, little (adjective, dialect)

Topsy-turvy – in confusion, upside down, state of disorder adv. with the top where the bottom should be; upside down; in or into a reversed condition or order; in or into a state of confusion or disorder. Adj. turned upside down; inverted; reversed: confused or disorderly:

  • It was a topsy-turvy reflection.
  • The room was a topsy-turvy classroom.

Inversion of the natural order; a state of confusion or disorder. (Noun)

Tric-trac – an old form of backgammon played with pegs.

Tringum-trangum – a whim, or maggot.

Trittle-trattle – cheap, tawdry articles (nick-nacks).

  • At the fair I had spent all my silver buying trittle-trattles at the lucky-booths.

Twiddle-twaddle – empty chatter; twaddle – a silly idle talk: drivel; something insignificant or worthless; nonsense.

  • That idea is pure twaddle

Twingle-twangle – the twang of a musical instrument; a twangling sound; a jangle.

Whimsy-whamsy – a fantastic, or whimsical notion; a whim.

  • Some long-forgotten critic dubbed this kind of thing ‘whimsy-whamsy’, and I can’t put it any better than that. (‘Cat,’ Freshly Skinned)

Ablaut Reduplication List 12

Whim-wham – Whim-wham – a quaint and decorative object; a trinket; a whim.

  • We reflected on the follies and whim-whams of the metropolis.

Whittie-whattie – vague or frivolous talk; indecisive or evasive conduct, shuffling or cajoling language; hence, a person who employs cajolery or other deceptive means to gain an end.

Pretext – a purpose or motive alleged or an appearance assumed in order to cloak the real intention or state of affairs; a reason that you give to hide your real reason for doing something; pretense

  • The leaders used a minor clash at the border as a pretext for war. (as a reason/excuse for starting a war)
  • She always managed to visit him on one pretext or another. (she found various reasons to visit him)
  • She went back to her friend’s house on/under the pretext that she had forgotten her purse.

To mutter; whisper; waste time by vague cajoling language; talk frivolously; shilly-shally (verb)

Wibble-wobble – a puzzle game in which players have to face off against tons of enemies (noun). (Often followed by on) to speak or write in a vague or wordy manner (verb).

  • He wibble-wobbled on the matter for about an hour.

To wobble lightly, to quiver, to tremble lightly. To move with an uneven or rocking motion, or unsteadily to and fro.

Wibbly-wobbly – very unstable (adjective).

  • He walks with a wibbly-wobbly gait.

Widdle-waddle – to walk unsteadily or with a waddling movement (verb).

In an unsteady or waddling manner, especially one resembling the gait of a duck (adverb).

Wiggle-waggle – indecisive, vacillating.

  • He has gone wiggle-waggle and cannot be persuaded to be categorical.

To move jerkily back and forth: wiggle and waggle from one thing to another; vacillate (intransitive verb).

  • They wiggle-waggle between appeals for charity and responsible state action.

Something (as an amusement park contrivance) that wiggle-waggles (noun).

Ablaut Reduplication List 13

Wig-wag – Verb: move to and fro.

  • The wipers were wigwagging to keep the windscreen clear.

Signal by waving something.

  • He furiously wigwagged at her.

Wimbly-wambly – (Adjective); unsteady, dizzy; feeling sick and giddy.

  • Her eyes do make me wimbly-wambly in the stomach.

Wishy-washy – informal speech or writing deemed banal or foolish; a thin watery drink; nonsensical talk or writing; feeble or insipid in quality or character. Synonymous with ineffectual, weak, vapid, effete, spineless, limp, namby-pamby, half-hearted, spiritless, irresolute, indecisive.

  • I felt like an idiot for being so wishy-washy.

Pale, insipid; pallid, wan, sickly;

  • He painted the room with a wishy-washy colour.
  • All the world was lapsing into a grey wish-wash of nothingness, she had no contact and no connection anywhere. (Women in Love by D. H. Lawrence)

Wringle-wrangle – (slang) a verbal argument (noun). (Slang) To argue. From ‘wrangle’ by ablaut reduplication

Zig-zag – (Noun); a line, course, or progression; characterized by sharp turns first to one side and then to the other. (Adjective); proceeding or formed in a zigzag: zigzag stitches. (Adverb); with frequent sharp turns from side to side; in a zigzag manner:

  • The child ran zigzag along the beach.

Verb (transitive); to make (something) zigzag, as in form or course; move or manoeuvre (something) in a zigzag direction:

  • They zigzagged their course to confuse the enemy.

Verb (intransitive); to proceed in a zigzag line or course.

  • The children zigzagged in the snow.

Closing Words

Did you read Mariamma Ba’s So long A Letter? Having gone through these long lists of ablaut reduplications, you would want to soy, ‘so long a list’. Of course, you can say that again. The lists are not exhaustive, so many other ablaut reduplications have been left out. But you can always search for them on your own. It is interesting to note that Reduplication is one of the Word formation Processes in the English Language. Make sure you share this post with your friends and let them be aware of the different types of Freezes and Reduplications that exist in English. See you around!


Syntactic Iconicity and Linguistic Freezes: The Human Dimension edited by Marge E. Landsberg


List of Freezes

Papers from the Para session on Functionalism

Microsoft® Encarta® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

Collins English Dictionary. Copyright © HarperCollins Publishers


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