Contrastive reduplication: a thing, or a THING-thing?

Since writing about reduplication (choo-choo, splish-splash, heebie-jeebies) for Macmillan Dictionary Blog, I’ve been meaning to elaborate on a particular form of it, known as contrastive focus reduplication or just contrastive reduplication (CR), also called lexical cloning, the double construction, and word word.

It sounds obscure, but it’s a common phenomenon in informal English. This Zits comic illustrates it well:

Zits, by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman, via Language Log

Jeremy can be “up” while still in bed because up can mean simply awake, as it does in the first speech bubble. So UP-up in the second bubble indicates a contrasting kind of up – “up and about”, i.e. out of bed – that the word normally refers to in the context.

I came across a good example last weekend, in Augusten Burroughs’s novel Sellevision [underlines added]:

“So, you catch the game last night?”
“Are you kidding?!” Max laughed with relief. “I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. I’m totally addicted.”
Bob chuckled. “Oh man, last night was a close one, huh?”
Max rolled his eyes. “I couldn’t believe he blew it! I mean, Everyone knows ‘The Wind Beneath My Wings’ is from Beaches. What a dork.”
Bob’s smile fell. “What?”
“I just about knocked my wine over with that one. Evita? What was he thinking?” Max said, shaking his head.
“What are you talking about?”
“What do you mean? Last night’s game. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
“I wasn’t talking about that,” Bob said sourly. “I was talking about the game game. The Mets versus the Cardinals. Not some game show.”

Bob’s “the game game” denotes a type of game – baseball, I think – that’s more typical of game in the context of two American men discussing “the game last night”, just as being up out of bed, as distinct from being merely awake, is what’s normally meant by up in relation to bed.

These are the default, the more “true” or “real” meanings, and contrastive reduplication (UP-up, GAME-game) aims to resolve the ambiguity of reference by stressing whatever meaning is prototypical.

So far we’ve seen a preposition and a noun reduplicated in this way; it also happens with verbs, verb phrases, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, lexicalised expressions, and even proper names. If my friend and I know multiple Anns, one of them well, we might sometimes say ANN-Ann to preclude potential confusion.

Here’s a tweet from last year with a contrastively reduplicated like (v.) (along with a few filler likes and a hashtag):

And another verb, from Sheldon comics by Dave Kellett (via Language Log again):

*

For CR to work, there has to be some leeway in how a word might be interpreted – “a certain breadth of potential reference”, in the words of this Boston University summary (PDF).* It describes CR as:

a kind of clarifying construction that usually means something like “the prototypical thing, not one of the slightly non-prototypical things one might otherwise have called by this name.”

The Boston Uni notes draw on an academic paper, ‘Contrastive Focus Reduplication in English (The SALAD-Salad Paper)’,** of which there’s a draft available (PDF) from Ray Jackendoff’s website. Though technical, it’s fairly accessible and very interesting. The salad reference in the title comes from this line:

I’ll make the tuna salad, and you make the SALAD–salad. [i.e., green salad]

The SALAD-Salad paper discusses why CR happens, how it differs from other types of reduplication, whether it occurs in other languages, and how it might fit with contemporary grammatical theory. It also examines structural aspects such as what gets copied – sometimes it’s only partial, e.g. “I like wind-surfing, not SURF-surfing”.

Here’s an excerpt on how common (and contagious) CR appears to be:

CR is quite common in North American English. We have recorded it used by speakers in their 20s and their 70s; by speakers of British English; and by native speakers of other languages (when speaking English). One speaker of our acquaintance reliably uses it in our presence about once a week; one of us recorded three instances of it (uttered by three different speakers) at a single dinner party. Furthermore, even those who claim never to use the construction are sensitive to its contagious quality, once exposed. We have repeatedly caused an outbreak of CR following presentations of parts of this work. The phenomenon is of course much rarer in written corpora; however, we have found numerous instances of it in film and television transcripts.

For a taster, you might enjoy browsing the authors’ corpus of examples (237 and counting), which, happily, is online and indexed by part of speech and type of source, courtesy of Kevin Russell at the University of Manitoba.

Have you come across this phenomenon? Maybe you use it sometimes; I’d love to hear more examples. (Not HEAR-hear: more like see, here.)

Updates:

Via @millymelon on Twitter: comedian Micky Flanagan explains the difference between going out and going OUT-out:

*

* Hat-tip to Language Hat.

** Written by Jila Ghomeshi, Ray Jackendoff, Nicole Rosen, and Kevin Russell, and published in Natural Language and Linguistic Theory, 22(2), 2004.

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62 Responses to Contrastive reduplication: a thing, or a THING-thing?

  1. Harry Lake (age 66, freelance translator since 1972) says:

    I’d like to hear your thoughts on the curious (or perhaps not so curious, come to think of it) phenomenon of ‘is is’, as in: ‘The thing is, is that …’ A different subject, I know, but maybe you’d like to think about it sometime.

  2. Eolaí says:

    I only get to read these posts when I’m at home home.

  3. Eimear says:

    I also often use “HOME home” to clarify a statement such as “I’m going home for the weekend”, I suppose with a expected effect of being slightly whimsical.

  4. Jen says:

    Thank you. I keep noticing contrastive reduplication, but I forgot what it was called, and could only think of it as the salad-salad phenomenon. Small correction, however: the comedian in your clip is Micky Flanagan, not Kevin.

  5. Stan says:

    Harry: I do find the “is is” construction curious, and I think there can be several motivations for it. Sometimes it seems to be a disfluency, but often it’s not. You might find the discussions at Language Hat and Language Log interesting.

    Eolaí: Ah, a good example, and one I used to use myself.

    Eimear: Yes, there’s a whimsical feel to it which I like. There are probably even situations where HOME-home-home could make sense.

  6. Stan says:

    Jen: You’re welcome. Contrastive (focus) reduplication doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue or the brain (unlike, say, shm-reduplication). The salad-salad phenomenon would not be a bad alternative. Thanks for the correction: now fixed. I don’t know what put “Kevin” in my head.

  7. Oisín says:

    I’m another one to use home-home and out-out, and also work-work.

  8. Jonathon says:

    I’ve heard and used “room-roommate” to refer to someone you share a room with, as opposed to someone you simply share an apartment with. One of my favorite examples comes from my phonology teacher: “restaurant-restaurant”, meaning a real sit-down restaurant, not a fast-food restaurant.

  9. Eolaí says:

    I’m quite partial to a fancy sausage when opportunity presents but sometimes you just want a sausage sausage.

  10. ALiCe__M says:

    Love your article, Stan, this “contrastive reduplication” I’ve noticed a lot of times in oral informal English, and always find it very expressive. Micky Flannagan is so funny : would you say his way of dropping the “Ts” is typical of a Kentish accent ?

  11. alexmccrae1546 says:

    Harry Lake,

    First off, we’re exactly the same age (66)….. two old-ish farts. HA!

    But seriously, your question re/ the use of ‘is is’, immediately conjured up memories of the now immortal words of former U.S. Pres. Bill Clinton, spoken during cross-examination in his contentious Senate impeachment/ perjury hearing, where he came up w/ his now notorious rebuttal, “Well, that would really depend on what your definition of ‘is is'”.

    Clinton, w/ his unwavering, syrupy Arkansas drawl proved to be the unwavering language parser extraordinaire in this kangaroo court turned tawdry witch-hunt, at times, completely confounding the aggressive Senate prosecution attorneys; coming out of his grueling personal ordeal w/ a major Congressional censure, yet still retaining his official duties as president.

    Now THAT’S what I’d define as pure ‘ballsy ballsy’.

    Clinton’s successfully two-term presidential tenure in office, in which he managed to have erased the crushing national debt, and further facilitated a prosperous 1990’s for the U.S., ever-cemented his place in the pantheon of most cunning, adept, and effective U.S. presidents.

    His enemies in government were legion. His political foes loathed him, particularly his political tactics, w/ a passion; yet none could deny his charisma, political savvy, native intelligence, driving ambition, and abiding instinct for political survival.

    Moving on—I’ve always felt a bit uncomfortable using ‘that that’, as in the phrase, “Not that that was his only redeeming feature.” I guess it’s a legitimate juxtaposition, yet it still sounds somewhat alien to MY ear.

    Speaking of ‘home home’, I couldn’t help thinking about the phrase, “home-away-from-home”. For many of us car-dependent Southern Californians, that home-away-from-home would have to be our vehicles, equipped, these days, w/ all the latest convenient techie bells-and-whistles, including GPS, state-of-the-art sound systems, and heated seats.

    (Well frankly, heated seats aren’t really a huge ‘ass-et’ here in Los Angeles, where it’s rarely bone-chillingly cold….. unless one ventures up into the more mountainous local climes. But I digress.)

  12. jennyfoxe says:

    I use this all the time. Well not ALL all the time but quite a lot. We sometes go OUT out into TOWN town to a RESTAURANT restaurant where we might eat DINNER dinner and get a DRINK drink instead of eating junk. By junk I mean junk food and not junk JUNK of course. We also sometimes go to the BEACH beach which has a lifeguard or the WOODS woods which are further away and bigger than the ones in our local park. Personally, I prefer to go SHOPPING shopping rather than simply buy groceries. Perhaps it’s just laziness on my part. Simply not bothering to think of or use a contrasting word. Fascinating post, I never even noticed it as a thing before.

  13. Stan says:

    Oisín: Work-work meaning paid work as opposed to hobby-work or something like that, I take it.

    Jonathon: I would use housemate in that position, but I’ve noticed that roommate can have a broader meaning in AmE. I like restaurant-restaurant, and have always felt there should be a separate word for fast food outlets.

    Eolaí: That’s true, unless you’re a vegetarian. A vegetarian-vegetarian, unlike some people I know who say they’re vegetarian because they eat meat only occasionally.

    Alice: Thank you. I find it expressive too, and will be keeping a closer ear out for it in future. I’m afraid I don’t know if Flanagan’s accent is typically Kentish, and there’s no mention of dropped Ts here. Maybe someone better versed in UK accents will know.

    Alex: That that doesn’t bother me, but sometimes a phrase just goes ahead and discomforts us even when we know it’s OK. By the way, I wouldn’t count Clinton’s “is is” in the same category, because the first is was being referred to.

    Jenny: Wow, you really do like it. And yeah, it’s a thing! Those are great examples – I like WOODS woods especially. I don’t think it’s lazy at all: efficient, maybe, and anyway it can be quite expressive, as Alice points out, and funny too.

  14. alexmccrae1546 says:

    Stan,

    I appreciate your clarification re/ my Clinton ‘is is’ example. (I tried. HA!)

    I would guess that ‘that that’ (Wow! Three consecutive “that”s), falls into the same category, w/ the first ‘duplicate’ word being referred to by the following identical second (word)?

    Clearly, both my ‘is is’ and ‘that that’ don’t really fit the definition of a “contrastive duplicate” pair. Oh well.

    Just curious.

    Would a ‘wife wife’, in say the fast-and-loose, violent universe of Walter Mosley’s anti-hero, Easy Rawlins*, and sidekick, Mouse, be an apt term for an officially nuptialed, for-better-or-for-worse-type wife, as opposed to say a common-law, live-in ‘main squeeze’, who may, nonetheless, think she’s ‘the wife’, yet doesn’t quite rise to the status of ‘wife wife’, i.e., holy wedded, diamond-ring-bearing, mother-of-my-chillin spouse status, in the judgmental eyes of others?

    Somehow, I think the shady denizens that inhabit Mosley’s fictive netherworld of crime and dire punishment, might make the qualitative distinction between just a “wife”, and a ‘wife wife’. Yet the point is moot, at best.

    *Just finished reading both Walter Mosley’s,” white butterfly” and “Gone Fishin’ ” this past weekend. (Between watching some very exciting Olympics action.)

    Stan, I forgot about Easy’s earlier Houston,TX and Louisiana history. Also, that by his late teens he was merely semi-literate, but compensated, for a time, w/ his innate street smarts.

    Mosley’s clever play on the authentic local creole-infused patois, in ‘Fishin’ — the characteristic quirky speech rhythms, clipped phrasing, and such, while also capturing the back-woodsy, black magic funkiness, mystery, weirdness, and foreboding of remote bayou country, transports the reader into another reality, bordering on surreality.

    You can almost hear the incessant buzz of the cicadas, and feel the oppressive heat and humidity of untamed swampland in your bones.

    Madame “Jo”s pet armadillos kinda freaked me out. Not to mention her deceased husband’s leathery shrunken head, taking it’s special place on a shelf in her dank, dark, dirt-floored living room.

    Talk about roughing it, down-on-the-bayou* style.

    Kin neva git ‘nough o’ dat Mosley cat, no how.

    *Apologies to folk-rocker, John Fogerty.

  15. Val says:

    So, like… where’s the Like button?

    I’ve just realised I wasn’t following you. Not following, following you understand, but following.

    Am I being cute here? No, I thought not. Oh well, never mind…

  16. H. S. Gudnason says:

    Not quite the same thing, but the cadence reminds me of the exchange from Love’s Labours Lost:

    Berowne: And, to begin, wench,—so God help me, la!—
    My love to thee is sound, sans crack or flaw.

    Rosaline. Sans ‘sans,’ I pray you.

  17. Barrie says:

    On reduplicatives in general, Stan, Steven Pinker points out in ‘The Language Instinct’ that where they have both a high front vowel and a low back vowel the first always precedes the second. So it’s always ‘pitter-patter’, ‘chit-chat’ and ‘mish-mash’, never ‘patter-pitter’, ‘chat-chit’ or ‘mash-mish’. He speculates that it’s because the high front vowel suggests here and now, and so comes first, while the low back vowel suggests distance.

  18. Stan says:

    Alex: I appreciate that you tried. But did you TRY-try? “That that” is rather different again: each that serves a very different grammatical function, and I wouldn’t classify it as reduplication. Sounds like you enjoyed the Mosley binge! I’m still processing the news that John Banville is to revive Philip Marlowe, with the blessing of the Chandler estate…

    Val: There used to be a Like button, but I’d be relieved if it has disappeared. There are various ‘share buttons’, though. Thank you for following-following. :-)

    H. S.: Also not the same thing, but it reminds me of: “Chim chiminey, chim chiminey, chim-chim-cheree.”

    Barrie: Thanks for sharing that, Barrie. I had noticed the pattern but never speculated on its motivation. I lent my copy of The Language Instinct years ago and never got it back, and had since forgotten Pinker’s suggestion.

  19. [...] An example from a linguistics paper on contrastive reduplication: [...]

  20. alexmccrae1546 says:

    Stan,

    Like, I’m pondering, dude, like, whether in the narrow bounds of L.A. ’60s/ ’70’s-rooted Valley Girl speak (Valley Girl-ese?), we may have ever heard the conversational “like like” combo; used in the same grammatical sense as “that that”. Granted, still not a ‘contrastive duplication’, but surely, like like within the realm of possibility, no?

    Interestingly, for several years in the mid-2000s I worked as a key background designer at Warner Bros. TV Animation Studios in a grand, three-tiered, sprawling annex-extension of the famed Sherman Oaks Galleria ( THE MALL). ‘The Galleria’ was basically the very linguistic epicenter of the ’60s/’70s Valley Girl ‘cultural’ phenomenon, and hence, the birth of the very idiomatically imbued, trendy Valley Girl-speak.

    Historically, this rather vapid, monotone, cliché-driven, “like”-infused manner of conversational speech arose in the everyday casual parlance of middle-to-upper-middle-class ‘tween’ and teenage girls, whose major pastime in life seemed to be hanging w/ close friends in The Galleria—shopping, talking, noshing, and while sharing idle, age-appropriate gossip. (Boys! Boys Boy!)

    The Sherman Oaks Galleria, from a handful of local mall options, for some reason became the most happening multi-store, under-one-roof, commercial emporium around, and the coolest place to meet fellow peers, and be seen, for chatty teens w/ money to spend, and oodles of time to kill.

    So ironically, like, the Valley Girl scene, like, totally arrived, like, just a few miles from where I’m, like, currently residing, here in Van Nuys, CA. Like, go figure, dude. Like, far out! (For sure!)

    Would someone, like, kindly ‘gag me w/ a spoon’.

    On a parenthetical, yet related, geographically note—- This morning I caught the latter part of an interview w/ the astute linguist, Mignon Fogerty*, on NPR’s The Madeline Brand Show, and they were discussing when the word “medal” was first employed as a verb, as in say, “Will so-and-so athlete medal in the 400m finale, tonight?”.

    Interestingly, Ms. Fogerty claimed that “medal”, used as a verb, was supposedly first used by an L.A. newspaper journalist reporting on a local diving meet in my (adopted) hometown of Van Nuys, CA, back in the early ’60s. Who knew?

    Little did I know that our rather charming, yet in some areas, rough-around-the edges, little old San Fernando Valley, would have such marked cultural caché? (Well, the fact that it’s also the recognized porn production/ distribution capital of North America does kind of sully its positive image, a tad.)

    *Fogerty, who for me comes off as a very engaging, high-spirited, and very bright gal, on-air, was also plugging a new book that’s coming out, shortly. Can’t recall the title, but I’m sure it will be a most entertaining, illuminating, and informative read.

  21. Stan says:

    Alex: According to the OED, Byron used medal as a verb in a letter in 1822 – and the usage could be even older than that. But the 1960s saw it enter sports lingo, which may be what Fogarty was referring to. Kerry Maxwell has a good article about it over at Macmillan Dictionary.

    • Harry Lake (age 66, freelance translator since 1972) says:

      Not really relevant, so forgive me, but I’ve just heard the expression ‘granddad dads’ (or grandad dads, of course) for the first time, in a BBC Radio 4 comedy, in the sense of fathers who are old enough to be their children’s grandfather. I’m not going to waste hours trawling the net, but the first few pages have turned up nothing with this meaning. I’ll shut up now…

  22. Stan says:

    Thanks for mentioning it, Harry. I can’t see it catching on widely, but it’s an interesting coinage all the same.

  23. alexmccrae1546 says:

    Well leave it to that ‘meddlesome’ Lord Byron to make me look like a regular horse’s butt. HA!

    I would guess, back-n-the-day, his novel use of “medal” as a verb would refer to a soldier receiving a military medal for display of courage, or distinction on the field of battle; or perhaps a royal ‘decoration’ for outstanding achievement, or meritorious service to the King, or Queen.

    Clearly, the modern Olympics weren’t being contested back in the Romantic age of Byron and Keats. (Just oft fatal duels, and such.HA!)

    Yet perchance they gave out medals (along w/ the Claret Jug trophy) to winners of those first late-19th century British Open golf tourneys, to the likes of the legendary “Young” and “Old” Tom Morris.

    Stan, thanks for that MacMillan Dictionary’s “Buzz Word” link on the “verbing” of the word “medal” by Kerry Maxwell. Very instructive.

    Interestingly, the two alternative spellings of the past tense of the verb construction, “to medal”, namely “medalled” (Canadian and Brit E. spelling) and “medaled” (w/ the singular “l”—used by everyone else), were cited in sentence examples draw directly from the evening paper I basically grew up with, The Toronto Star sports pages (“meddled”), and that other paper to be reckoned with, the Malta Independent, using “medaled” in an article about swimmer Michael Phelps.

    (Hmm…. it would be cool if the isle of Malta had a daily rag called The Maltese Falcon. ( Groan….DON’T play it gain, Sam.)

    The article also noted the use of “medalled”, or the alternative,”medaled”, as legitimate participial adjectives, using “a medalled (or medaled) Olympian” as their example.

    Well Stan, I trust many of your sports-loving readers witnessed Jamaican sprinting sensation, Usain Bolt, spectacularly gold medalling for yet a second time in these London Games, w/ his country’s clean, one-two-three, medal sweep in the 200m sprint final, yesterday.

    Bolt, Blake and Weir….. gold, silver, and bronze. Brilliant!

    Perhaps for those elite, winning, charismatic Olympians like Bolt, Blake, Phelps, Rudisha, Eaton, Ennis, Felix, Douglas, May-Treanor and Walsh-Jennings we should coin a special appellation—über medalist has a nice ring to it, no?

  24. ALiCe__M says:

    Thank you for the link about kentish accent. So, do you think MichaelFlanagan has no particular accent ? (accents fascinate me)

  25. alexmccrae1546 says:

    Stan,

    Hate to dampen your expressed anticipatory enthusiasm re/ the recent news that John Banville has been given the task of reviving Raymond Chandler’s detective icon, Philip Marlowe.

    But well-regarded book critic for the L.A. Times, David L. Ulin, in a short piece that ran in ‘The Times’, last Friday, as I recall, was somewhat skeptical of the Chandler estate’s choice of author Banville as their great ‘revivalist’.

    He was, in his own words, “(to put it mildly) underwhelmed”.

    Ulin had some mild reservations about Banville writing the Chandler mystery-redux under his regular pseudonym, namely Benjamin Black. His argument being that anyone familiar w/ Banville’s novels knows that Black is actually Banville-in-disguise, as it were. For me this seems like a bit of rather feeble semantic quibbling.

    Ulin’s major qualm is that Robert B. Parker, some 20 years ago, completed an unfinished Chandler novel, “Poodle Springs”, followed up by “Perchance to Dream”, a sequel, of sorts, to Chandler’s classic, “The Big Sleep”. Implying, perhaps, that the Chandler well-of-material has basically run dry.

    A profound Chandler direct quote cited by Ulin in his critique stood out. It’s a kind of philosophical response to a noted literary critic of the day, Edmund Wilson’s puffery,(and his peevish colleagues), who claimed that mysteries are “simply a kind of vice that, for silliness and minor harmfulness, ranks somewhere between smoking and crossword puzzles.”

    Chandler, in his 1944 essay for the Atlantic Monthly titled, “The Simple Art of Murder” writes: “There are no vital and significant forms of art… there is only art, and precious little of that… it is always a matter of who writes the stuff, and what he has in him to write with. Everything written with vitality expresses that vitality; there are no dull subjects, only dull minds.”

    So critic Wilson, stuff THAT in your pipe and smoke it!

    In sum, I trust Banville will do a most credible job, despite critic Ulin’s caveats.

  26. Stan says:

    Alex: I suspect most people would be surprised, if not astonished, that medal as a verb has been with us so long. In my earlier comment I didn’t clearly express my feelings about the forthcoming Marlowe book: I am not enthusiastic. Though I admire Banville generally, having liked many of his books and loved a few, the two Benjamin Black books I read did little for me, and their style seems very unsuited to Marlowe. Where Chandler’s stories are sharp, tight, resolute and witty, Black’s are morose, fragmentary and introspective – traits that can work fine in some guises, but not as Marlowe. I’ll keep an open mind and hope to be happily surprised, but I can’t help wishing it were someone else (such as Denis Johnson), if it had to be someone at all.

    Alice: Everyone has an accent, but beyond recognising Flanagan’s as English, I’m afraid I can’t say much about it.

  27. Oisín says:

    Just came across a nice example in The Kids Are All Right – Annette Bening asks Julianne Moore if she wants to watch a movie, and the reply is, “A movie-movie?”, ie, a porno.

  28. Stan says:

    Oisín: That’s a good one! Without context, I’d probably have guessed it meant “going to the cinema” as opposed to watching a DVD or a film on TV.

  29. Oisín says:

    Yeah they were in bed and there was a hint of mischief in the delivery of the line! In a different context it could easily mean something else, like what you mentioned.

  30. [...] a side note, you might have noticed two examples of contrastive reduplication in the quoted excerpt above: “not fake like the brag brag”; “shamed into brag-bragging” – [...]

  31. My African friends and colleagues are often bemused at the British obsession with time and timekeeping. For many of them, arrangements to meet up are loose, flexible things. As with varying degrees of “out”, they have varying degrees of “now”. There’s now as in sometime in the fairly near future, as long as something more pressing doesn’t turn up, and there’s “now-now” which is what most Brits would call “now”. I feel there may be some parallel with monetary inflation here, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. ;-)

  32. cartoonmick says:

    An interesting topic thanks, Stan.

    I’m a freelance cartoonist (please have a look around the samples on my blog), and I don’t think I’ve ever used this technique.

    Maybe I should, as it is a clever way to simplify a focal point within a cartoon.

    I met Jim Borgman about 4 years ago. A very nice man, a gentleman, and a great cartoonist.

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  34. Mohenjo says:

    I love your blog, I could not figure out how to reblog it. So I posted it on my link blog.

    I also, posted it on facebook and twitter.

    My daughter is a writer, I know she will enjoy your work also.

  35. Stan says:

    Sabita: Time is often treated cavalierly in Ireland, too: “five minutes” could mean 5, 10, 15 minutes or even more. Your example of NOW-now is an interesting case, and it also brings to mind the disputes over the meaning and usage of presently and momentarily.

    Mick: Thanks for your visit. I think CR is the type of thing that can easily go more-or-less unnoticed in conversation unless you listen for it. I like your bench under a lamppost – keep up the good work.

    Mohenjo: Thanks very much; that’s generous of you.

  36. aparnauteur says:

    Lovely post. I never knew this term existed although its usage has always amused me. I used to wonder why we write the same word twice to add emphasis (I think that falls under reduplication). Like good.good. It’s as if one good wouldn’t do the job and very good just wouldn’t cut it. Now I know what it’s called. I look forward to reading more. Congrats on being freshly pressed!

  37. gauravdey says:

    glad to read it.. :)

  38. Stan says:

    aparnauteur: Thanks for your kind words, and for subscribing. Yes, emphatic “good good” is a form of reduplication, but it’s playful or intensifying rather than contrastive.

    Gaurav: Glad you enjoyed it. :-)

  39. igardett says:

    This happens to people I know when they explain what they do. If they tell people they’re writers, the listener expects them to have published a book, usually a novel. When my friends explain that they write other types of things (technical writing or what have you), the listener generally responds with something like, “Oh. I thought you meant a WRITER-writer.”
    Nice post–very interesting!

  40. Nisse says:

    WORK-work as I know it is that work that you have to do for your career like university studies or writing that report that has to be finished at the end of the week, as opposed to some simple task like selling fast food, which is just ordinary “work”.

  41. Our Irish heritage (via Scotland) must be showing through, as I must frequently use “NOW now” when speaking to my grandchildren! hmmm

  42. Excellent post! Thanks so much for giving this phenomenon a technical name.

  43. Stan says:

    igardett: Great example. A WRITER-writer in the popular imagination tends to be a successful author – quite different from the writing that constitutes many people’s day jobs. Thank you for subscribing!

    Nisse: Interesting distinction – so for you, WORK-work entails more effort. Thanks for the data point.

    justnbh: I guess you mean Now, now! as an interjection to gently or playfully warn or admonish children, rather than the African sense (=immediately) that Sabita mentioned earlier.

    shadowoperator: You’re very welcome. It’s always good to have a name for these things.

  44. Val says:

    Here in Ireland you can have a cat cat! Cat being slang for bad or awful. “That movie was cat!”

  45. Ah, I wondered if Micky Flanagan would show up here!

    Brilliant post!

  46. Stan says:

    Val: I’ve always liked that slang usage of cat, though I can’t think of many situations where it would be confused with the noun.

    Kayleigh: Thanks! I didn’t know about the Micky Flanagan sketch until someone mentioned it to me on Twitter. It’s a great demonstration of the phenomenon.

  47. [...] anathema to the typical person, are a thing here in western SoDak. Like, a thing thing. Nine days after the end of the Sturgis rally, the streets are still ruled by a synergistic mix of [...]

  48. Mohenjo says:

    I love your blog; it is very informative.

  49. [...] was generated from an interesting blog regarding “contrastive- reduplication” (http://stancarey.wordpress.com/2012/08/07/contrastive-reduplication-a-thing-or-a-thing-thing/) – it’s basically when you use the same word twice to indicate “the [...]

  50. I hope you don’t mind, but I referenced your blog in my blog (http://whatdoyareckon.wordpress.com). Your blog generated a wonderful discussion over coffee this morning!

  51. Stan says:

    I don’t mind at all, Mrs Bushranger. Thank you for sharing the post with your readers – I’m happy to hear it sparked a good discussion!

  52. ASG says:

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention the highly politicized “RAPE-rape” example that hit the news when Whoopi Goldberg tried to characterize what Roman Polanski did not (in her opinion) do to a thirteen-year-old girl. Video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9NX_D0Bv9M0

    I realize you probably do not want to get into a discussion about rape in this thread (and opening that debate is not my intention!), but I do think it’s very interesting that, in trying to make some kind of quasi-legal distinction between “kinds” of rape, Goldberg resorted, clumsily IMO, to using contrastive reduplication.

  53. Stan says:

    ASG: And I’m surprised no one brought it up in a comment until now – though a couple of people mentioned it to me on Twitter. In any case it’s a good example, and I agree with you that it was a clumsy distinction for Goldberg to make, or to try to make, but linguistically interesting. There was a related discussion at Language Log earlier this year.

  54. Bit late to the party here, but I’ve got an interesting variant from Reservoir Dogs, where Mr Blonde talks about having to persuade his parole officer “that I can get a regular, you know, job, job-type job…”

  55. Stan says:

    Nice example, Spank – and an interesting variant, as you say, with its X-type twist. There’s no curfew on new submissions: it’s not a, y’know, party, party-type party.

  56. [...] is a nice example of contrastive focus reduplication, whereby outer space is contrasted with terrestrial space through immediate repetition of the [...]

  57. Harry Lake (age 66, freelance translator since 1972) says:

    Just come across my first example ‘in the wild’. In Magnus Mills, The Restraint of Beasts, ‘It depends what you call work’, he replied. ‘There’s work-work, and there’s telling other people to work. I prefer the second one.’

  58. Stan says:

    Thanks for sharing the example, Harry. It’s a good one, too, the context drawing attention to the contrast indicated. I recently came across a “home home” in Denis Johnson’s book Tree of Smoke. An unremarkable example, but still pleasing to see in print.

  59. […] There might be some yoga sprinkled in here and there, but it won’t be Yoga yoga, just, you know, yoga. (For my very first link: a great post about contrastive reduplication– “I’m up, but I’m not UP up”– here) […]

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