"Word" words?

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Apr 25 14:09:37 UTC 2008

At 6:50 AM -0700 4/25/08, Guy Letourneau wrote:
>Richard Lederer wrote of "word words," which are nouns spoken twice to
>indicate that what is meant is the thing in its most ordinary instance.
>For example "tea-tea" might be spoken to contrast from ice tea, or
>exceptionally exotic preparations.

Yes, various papers have been written about this construction, termed
alternately "doubles", "contrastive focus reduplication", or "lexical
clones".  One place to look is

Ghomeshi, Jila, Ray Jackendoff, Nicole Rosen & Kevin Russell (2004).
Contrastive focus reduplication in English. Natural Language and
Linguistic Theory 22: 307-57.

but I've discussed them in various papers myself.  The first
systematic analysis is in a master's thesis by Nancy Dray at the U.
of Chicago.  This is, in any case, not a discovery by Lederer.

>Some may remember an air freshener ad which named the product an "air
>conditioner" in which an exasperated housewife explains "it's not an air
>conditioner - air conditioner, it's an air CONDITIONER."
>Anyways, my wife was wondering about writers who append an English
>equivalent after a borrowed word. She said she had read of a woman who
>'wore a kimono robe and an obi belt.' 'Robe' and 'belt' seemed redundant
>to her.
>Any comments? Is there a katana sword, an ushanka hat, or borscht soup?
>- GLL

There is, famously, tuna fish. And pinky finger. Then there are the
opaque initialisms, like PIN number and ATM machine.  We've discussed
these in the past, at (at least) one point fairly extensively.


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