Sunday, May 09, 2010

An Abso-fuckin-lutely Strange and Wonderful Word

What do Matt Foley, Barney Stinson and Ned Flanders have in common, aside from awesomeness? They each are known for being practitioners of the figure of speech whose name happens to be the word of the week.
tmesis (tə-MEE-səs) — separation of parts of a word, especially a compound word, by the intervention of one or more words.
Examples make it clearer. In order, the instances of tmesis associated with the aforementioned TV characters would be La-dee-freakin’-da, Legen-wait for it-dary and Wel-diddly-elcome or other such diddly-isms. Beyond TV catchphrases, tmesis is employed by English-speakers more often than you might think. There’s a whole nother, for example. And there’s also expletive infixation — the insertion of swear words as a means of intensifying them, such as you might do with abso-fucking-lutely, which means business more than would just an regular old absolutely.

The word tmesis — the only word in all of English to begin with “TM,” according to Wikipedia — comes from the Greek word meaning “a cutting” and was used for poetic effect even in Ancient Greek.

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1 comment:

  1. Don't forget Luke. "But that's a whole nother year!"

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