-iz(z)- infix

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Mar 6 16:16:48 UTC 2003

>David Crystal (Encyclopedia of Language) has some good summary notes
>on various deformed and secret languages (Pig Latin and the like).
>The name for this -iz- phenomenon is tmesis (Greek: "cutting"), and
>it is common in Australia, where the place name Tumbarumba can come
>out as Tumba-bloody-rumba; there is a poem by Nino Culotta, alias
>John O'Grady, which has a line
>        Down in Tumba-bloody-rumba shooting kanga-bloody-roos.
>But that's inserting a word or expletive at an internal boundary; I'd
>be curious to see more examples of -iz- in US English.
>Roly Sussex
I'd have thought that these represent infixes but not true cases of
tmesis, which classically is a figure restricted to cases in which
compound words are interrupted, at (as you call it) the internal
boundary.  For me, "kangaroo" is a single morpheme, as is a place
name like "Tumbarumba".  Classic cases of -fuckin-, -bloody-,
-bloomin-, etc. as infixes whose insertion (regularly referred to as
"fuckin-insertion" in intro courses) is subject to stringent prosodic
constraints, as investigated by John McCarthy, among others, and as
seen in contrasts like

Massa[fuckin]chusetts vs. *Mass[fuckin]achusetts, *Massachu[fuckin]setts
abso[bloomin]lutely vs. *ab[bloomin]solutely, *absolute[bloomin]ly

don't qualify as tmesis, but "man-o-[fuckin]-war" does.  Here's the
_tmesis_ entry from the OED:

The separation of the elements of a compound word by the
interposition of another word or words.  (Often a reversion to the
earlier uncompounded structure.)

1586 DAY Eng. Secretary II. (1625) 83 Timesis or Diacope, a diuision
of a word compound into two parts, as, What might be soeuer vnto a
man pleasing,..for, whatsoeuer might be, etc.

1678 PHILLIPS (ed. 4), Tmesis,..a figure of Prosody, wherein a
compounded word is, as it were, cut asunder, and divided into two
parts by some other word which is interposed, as Septem Subjecta
Trioni, for Subjecta Septemtrioni.

1844 Proc. Philol. Soc. I. 265 Though the constituent parts of
compound terms may be disjoined by tmesis, the elements of truly
simple words never are.

1889 Athenæum 23 Mar. 373/1 Forgive the quaint tmesis of his opening
line:How bright the chit and chat!

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