Herb’s Blog, Herbdate 22357 – 821:
Here’s the haps:
Aah, haps shmaps. Reduplication shmeduplication. So what? Who cares? I originally got interested in this because I was at someone’s blog and saw that an apostrophe appeared misplaced, although after re-reading the piece I realized it was my brain that had been misplaced instead and I said to myself, “apostrophe shmapostrophe. That’s going to be the title of my letter “S” blog post.” Except, of course, I couldn’t force myself to do it. The phrase starts with an “a” not an “s” and my perfectionism wouldn’t allow it.
But then I started wondering about what this might be called. I mean, there’s a fancy-schmancy name for everything else, and something as common as this has got to have a name. Well, not only does it have a name, there are six types of reduplication in English. Before I go on I could find very little etymology on the term itself so the reason it’s called reduplication and not just duplication is a mystery to me. Except that it sounds cool to say. Sort of like Calvin’s Transmogrifier, your mouth can be a Reduplicator.
Some of the articles I ran across were pretty detailed and some said there were three types and some said five. Some were in-depth but not IN-DEPTH in-depth. That’s Contrastive Focus Reduplication. Like saying “I’m awake, but not AWAKE-awake.” Another type that I thought was kind of boring, really, was Comparative Reduplication. This would be like saying, Colin ran farther and farther as opposed to confusing it with someone else, as in, Colin ran farther than James. Ablaut Reduplication was more interesting because it contains a high vowel and a low vowel sound, like wishy-washy or seesaw, and things like bric-a-brac, knickknack, and zig-zag. Exact Reduplication is like, bye-bye, knock-knock, blah-blah, yadda-yadda. Rhyming Reduplication is pretty cool and has things like Okee-Dokee and itsy-bitsy, easy-peasy, teenie-weenie, and walkie-talkie.
The one that caught my attention and started me looking around for what this is called was SHM-Reduplication. In my opinion, it’s different from the others because it comes pretty much directly from Yiddish. I think it shows, not only how flexible English is as a language in general but American English in particular. It usually expresses indifference or even disdain. yeah, yeah, blog shmog. Picture shmicture. You have to have the correct blend of sarcasm and light disdain or you might come off sounding mean. Mean shmean! That’s what I meant to sound like. It’s all in your voice and how you want it to come off.
The only thing I wonder about though is the spelling. Spelling-Shmelling you say, it’s not even a real word. Maybe. But I grew up in a part of Wisconsin that had a fairly dense population of Germans (I don’t mean the Germans were dense just that there was a large population density of Germans, but most of the Germans I knew were pretty smart although they could be hard-headed at times which is the same as being dense. Anyway, there were a lot of Germans I grew up around) and I think it should be Schm-Reduplication. Especially since Yiddish has many roots in German. I know, I know, Yiddish-Schmiddish.