The English Language.

Padmum who holds a Master’s Degree in English and has taught English to college students has sent this absolutely stunning information.

The Rule of Ablaut Reduplication.

Why `tock-tick’ does not sound right to your ears.

Ever wondered why we say :

tick-tock, not tock-tick,
or ding-dong,
not dong ding;
King Kong,
not Kong King…?

Turns out it is one of the unwritten rules of English that native speakers know without knowing.

The rule, explains a BBC article, is:

“If there are three words then the order has to go…
I, A, O.

If there are two words then the first is I and the second is either A or O.”

Mish-mash,
Chit-chat,
Dilly-dally,
hilly-shally ,
Tip-top,
Hip-hop,
Flip-flop,
Tic-tac,
Sing-song,
Ding-dong,
King Kong,
Ping-pong.“

There’s another unwritten rule at work in the name Little Red Riding Hood, says the article.

“Adjectives in English absolutely have to be in this order:

Opinion – Size – Age -Shape – Colour -Origin – Material -Purpose – Noun.

So you can have a lovely little old rectangular green French silver whittling knife.

But if you mess with that word order in the slightest… you’ll sound like a maniac.“

That explains why we say “little green men“ not “green little men,“

But “Big Bad Wolf “ sounds like a gross violation of the “opinion (bad)-size (big) noun (wolf)“ order.

It won’t, though, if you recall the first rule about the I-A-O order…!!
Got it..?

That rule seems inviolable:

“All four of a horse’s feet make exactly the same sound.

But we always, always say clip-clop, never clop-clip!

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14 Responses to The English Language.

  1. Mike says:

    It’s odd that we have all these “rules” for a language that evolved over time rather than being designed. I’ve forgotten most of what I ever knew of the rules, but, for the most part, internalized enough of them to not make too many grammatical errors.

    • I suspect that most of us just do that without worrying about grammar and rules. I am often asked about the correct usage of somethings like who and whom, or whether to use a or an before a y and so on. I inevitably go by my experience and would not be able to explain why I choose one over the other.

  2. shackman says:

    Hmmmmmmmmmmm – so how do shoes and socks fit in? I cannot bring myself to say socks and shoes. I have been told that English is one of the toughest languages to master because of all this insanity – LOL.

    As Sheldon would say, Bazinga!

  3. tammy j says:

    hahaha! Bazinga for sure!
    but this is all fascinating.
    how any of us really ever learn it to actually make any sense speaking is amazing.
    then you add all the quaintness of regional dialects…
    for instance everything south of the Mason Dixon line will usually have “little” somewhere in the description. it’s a well used and loved adjective here.
    and… I have been playing catch up with posts I might have missed.
    how in the world did I ever MISS that you’re in monsoon?
    RAIN! and your beautiful terrace. enjoy dear Rummy! xo

  4. I didn’t know that! I love it. 😀

  5. I didn’t know that either, but then again my basics of the English language, especially with writing not crash hot at all…somehow I have just “got through” on many aspects – but ask me a technical terminology and I’m stumped…

    I think that is now why I like “pictures” – they are able to convey a thousand words…you select your own 🙂

    • We simply pick up our mother tongues by usage and it is only later that grammar and other aspects of it are learnt. Very often the more intricate aspects of the language are studied only by the scholars and for ordinary use, they are really unnecessary.

  6. nick says:

    One thing you need to get used to in English is the custom of understatement. If you ask someone how they are, they might say “not bad” which means bloody awful, or “I’m fine” which means everything’s going wrong, or “things could be better” which means my house just burnt down. You get the idea….

    • Yes, I learnt the art of the undertatement from my British employers a long time ago. There are other developments about which I can’t write. One example, How do you do? Can you imagine how I would like to respond to that question?

  7. Joared says:

    Fascinating! Wonder how much of this has to do with musical rhyming and rhythms, perhaps some innate brain programming, or if it’s because we’ve never heard it consistently any other way, so we’re not attuned to hearing it differently?

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