Try out a few reduplicative words for some fingle-fangle fun

Published 4:29 pm Friday, March 24, 2023

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The annual “Read Across America” day was celebrated earlier this month (on March 2 to be precise). It’s a day to get students more interested in reading, and, because it’s a worthy cause, many schools often continue to host Read Across America events and activities throughout the whole week or even the whole month.

I think it’s great to get more kids interested in reading and writing for a number of reasons. And it would also be a good idea to encourage it more amongst adults too. Picking up a good book is a nice form of entertainment or way to learn more knowledge, and being able to sit down and coherently write out your thoughts has a lot of benefits as well.

Because I’m an unrepentant nerd, I was browsing the Merriam Webster website this week and stumbled across their article on reduplicative words. It was a descriptive term I’ve actually never heard before, though once I started reading, I realized that it wasn’t hard to understand what it meant.

Reduplication is taking one word and then adding on a second rhyming word (as opposed to simple repetition of the same word again). You might be familiar with examples such as “hodge-podge” or “timey-wimey.” As Merriam-Webster points out, these words are a great way “to make people take you less seriously when you use them.” But to counterpoint, I think using the words make reading and writing and speaking a lot more fun.

Go ahead. Take a moment to say “argle-bargle” out loud. See? It’s funny, right?

Here is Merriam-Webster’s list of reduplicative words to add to your vocabulary, along with a bit of my own commentary and example sentences:

Easy-peasy – “very easy”

This phrase (which also commonly includes “lemon-squeezy” for extra fun) is pretty popular across the pond in the UK, especially back in the 1960s among children. But Merriam-Webster says the earliest record of the phrase was from The Cincinnati Enquirer in 1953.

An example sentence: “I thought writing example sentences for this column would be easy-peasy lemon-squeezy, but it’s actually like trying to squeeze lemons with your bare hands, which is more difficult than expected.”

Jiggery-pokery – “underhanded manipulation or dealings”

The etymology for this word apparently is an alteration of an old Scottish phrase “joukery-pawkery” meaning “to dodge, cheat” (jouk) and “to trick” (pawk), that was first used in the late 1800s. Every time I read this word, however, I just think it’s supposed to mean something about dancing a jig and doing the hokey pokey.

An example sentence: “There must have been some jiggery-pokery going on with the judges at the dance contest because the winner’s footwork was the least impressive of the group.”

Flimflam – “deceptive nonsense”

This fun word has been in use all the way back to at least the early 1500s. And I can understand why, because it’s one of those words that you just want to say over and over again.

An example sentence: “Don’t listen to that flimflam from scammers who will say anything to get your money these days.”

Hootchy-kootchy – “a dance performed by women that was once common in carnivals and fairs…”

So all these years, I thought “hoochie coochie” (an alternate spelling) was a word made up to rhyme with Chattahoochee in the old Alan Jackson song. But it’s actually a pretty old word. According to Merriam-Webster, the dance which often involved some suggestive movements “had begun to scandalize the sorts of people who are prone to being scandalized by dances” by the late 1800s, which only encouraged people to use the phrase more and more.

I’ll skip my own sentence this time and just share Merriam-Webster’s example, which is a quote from an 1895 edition of “The North Carolinian” publication: “‘Come right in, ladies and gentleman,’ said the hootchie koochie drummer… ‘and see the celebrated dance denounced by this morning’s News and Observer.’”

Skimble-skamble – “rambling and confused, senseless”

Like many other English words, we can thank Shakespeare for this one, though plenty of other writers used the word too. You don’t hear it as much these days, however, which is a shame.

An example sentence: “It takes a long time to make sure my columns each week aren’t just 1,000 words of skimble-skamble nonsense.”

Super-duper – “of the greatest excellence, size, effectiveness, or impressiveness”

Here’s one we may have all probably used at some point or another, whether earnestly or sarcastically. It originated as a way to make silly exaggerations, but there’s also a lesser-used literal interpretation where a “super-duper” can also describe a person who is really good at duping other people.

An example sentence: “Beware the super-duper salesman who makes claims about super-duper products that never seem to work after you buy them.”

Fingle-fangle – “something unimportant or whimsical”

This word probably stems from the more common “newfangled” though it’s not used these days nearly as often. But nothing is stopping us from bringing it back to describe all sorts of silly things.

An example sentence: “I’m just going to browse this store for some nice fingle-fangle trinkets to add to my collection of knick-knacks.”

Mumbo jumbo – “nonsense”

A word of African origins, it’s had a variety of meanings over the years, but Merriam-Webster notes that these days it’s often used to describe unnecessary and incomprehensible language.

An example sentence: “I hope I’ve explained everything you’re reading here correctly and it doesn’t sound like just a bunch of mumbo jumbo to you!”

The Merriam-Webster article has a few other fun reduplicative examples you can check out for yourself if you’re interested! Now that you’ve read all this, I hope you have fun adding a bunch of new super-duper easy-peasy words to your vocabulary.

Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at or 252-332-7206.