Contrastive focus reduplication: It’s reduplication, but it’s not *reduplication* reduplication

August 7, 2012

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]:

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