Contrastive focus reduplication

Q: “Did you have dinner tonight?”

A: “Yeah, but not, like, dinner dinner.”

Google “contrastive focus reduplication” and you’ll come across a lot of references to “The Salad-Salad Paper.”

As in this piece exploring the concept on

Also known as “lexical cloning.” (I think I like that term even better for sheer “eh what?”)

For the truly curious, a laundry list of examples from all manner of sources, from Steinbeck to The Simpsons,

And remember this ad?

“syllabus” is a ghost word

(Dear blog, I’ve missed you. I think of you often.)

Grammar Girl on ghost words: “Ghost words are words that weren’t real to begin with—they came about because of an error or misunderstanding—but they made it into the dictionary anyway.”

Syllabus is a ghost word!

Favorite line from this piece: “Thanks to John Racine who made me aware of the word ‘Nihilartikel,’ which likely predates ‘Mountweazel’…”

Well, I mean, yeah. Of course everybody knows that….

Actually, mountweazel is a great word I have just now discovered; it means deliberately invented entries in a dictionary or encyclopaedia.

Love among the pronouns

“Our use of little words can, uh, reveal hidden interests” from NPR:

One of the things that Pennebaker did was record and transcribe conversations that took place between people on speed dates. He fed these conversations into his program along with information about how the people themselves were perceiving the dates. What he found surprised him.

“We can predict by analyzing their language, who will go on a date — who will match — at rates better than the people themselves,” he says.

Specifically, what Pennebaker found was that when the language style of two people matched, when they used pronouns, prepositions, articles and so forth in similar ways at similar rates, they were much more likely to end up on a date.

“My mother is a former English teacher who always expected me to write the Great American Novel, thunderous and profound, so she was not impressed to learn that my first book is going to be amusing light verse,”

On Stephin Merritt, songwriter for the Magnetic Fields, who has written “a book chronicling all the two-letter words allowed” in Scrabble, 101 Two-Letter Words, illustrated by Roz Chast. From the NYTimes.