Monday, February 15, 2010

It's de-frikkin-lightful!

I'll bet you don't know what a tmesis is. I didn't, until I received in my emailbox the World Wide Words edition for the week. It comes every Saturday, and if you click on the link, you can sign up to get it too.

Back to what a tmesis (pronounced tuh-MEE-sis) might be. Well, according to Michael Quinion, who writes the World Wide Words website, it's the stuffing of one word into another, as in the title of this post. The origin of the word is from Ancient Greek, meaning "cutting." Interestingly, in Australia it's also known as a tumbarumba. They often insert the word "bloody" inside two words, as in "abso-bloody-lutely." Wikipedia gives some humorous ways that a tmesis is used in the English language:
  • Any-old-how," in which the divisibility of "anything" (as in "any old thing") is mimicked with the usually indivisible "anyhow."
  • "A-whole-nother", in which another (an+other) is reanalyzed as a+nother.
  • "Legen-wait for it-dary," in which the phrase "wait for it" is inserted into the word "legendary."
Isn't this fun? When I told Smart Guy about it, he said the first time he ever heard it used was by a friend many years ago, who said, "My hammer has disa-frackin-peared!" (except the word was not "frackin" but you can guess what it was).

The funny thing is that I've heard the phrase "a whole nother" my entire life and didn't even think about the fact that "nother" is not a word or that I had heard somebody make a tmesis!


  1. That's funny, and a good lesson! My mother used to say, "a whole another" because she couldn't stand that nother wasn't a real word. I tend to do this a lot, it's good to know there is an actual term for it!

  2. I learned some-frackin-new-thing today!

  3. What a marvelous word!! Tmesis..

    Ya learn something new every day...

  4. Sounds like 'husband-speak' to me. My husband makes up words all the time. The problem is he thinks they are actual words. Drives me insane.

  5. I'm too tired to come up with one right now. But it sounds fun.

  6. What do mean "nother" is not a word? We use that all the time here in Minnesota..:)

  7. This sounds like a great activity for my blog.

    I don't know where this word came from, but whenever I see a creature that is unknown to me I call it an isumpeep....any ideas?

  8. Of course nother is a word. Don't be silly.

  9. Or maybe I should say, don't be ri-frikkin-diculous.


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