You are here




Written by: Dr Bassem Hawamdeh


It could be argued with impunity that one salient feature of reduplicatives that bestows on them an added aesthetic value is their musicality. That is to say, it appears that music in language plays a crucial role in causing language to appeal to the listener. It seems that the more musical an utterance is (provided its musicality is not obtrusively forced) the more dulcet and the more pleasant-sounding this utterance is.

            Reduplicatives are not so common in English, and one paged through an unabridged dictionary in an attempt to count the reduplicatives, one would certainly find out that they are very few and far between. The rarity and rhythmicality of reduplicatives are very probably the reason why learners of English, once they have encountered them, grab at them with alacrity.

            Following is a set of sentences (numbered 1- ) which contain reduplicatives. Below the sentences are explanations (numbered 1- ) of those reduplicatives, cast randomly for you to rearrange. Match the sentences with the explanations of the reduplicatives in them.




Crystal, David (2005) The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language, CUP



Exercise 1: Read the sentences below and then match them with the correct explanations of the reduplicative expressions in them. An answer key is provided at the bottom of the explanations, but you are strongly advised to work out the whole exercise and, if need be, use a dictionary before checking your answers.


1. Stella is such a goody-goody, always trying to impress the boss with her ideas.

2. Come on, kids! Time to have din-din.

3. The policeman was talking to HQ on his walkie-talkie.

4. While we were hoping for a moment of solitude, the bell went ding-dong.

5. My dad bought me a bow-wow for my birthday present.

6. One of the employees was sacked yesterday for coming to work wearing flip-flops.

7. Ping-pong was a popular indoor game early last century.

8. Don't dillydally – just get your things and let's go.

9. They're neither right-wing nor left – just a bunch of wishy-washy pseudo-liberals.

10. Just a teeny weeny slice of cake for me, please.

11. I try and keep in tip-top shape by exercising every day.

12. We got tired of the hurly-burly of city life, so we moved to the country.

13. We went for a ride on a choo-choo.

14. I'm scared of gee-gees. I'll never ride one.

15. His long prison sentence made him a ding-a-ling, and he continued to behave eccentrically till well after his release.

16. So much of what the manager says is just hocus-pocus.

17. Oliver struck it rich not through honest competition in business, but through jiggery-pokery.

18. There was a bit of hanky-panky going on at the party.

19. They think I'm a fuddy-duddy because I don't approve of tattoos.

20. We shouldn't believe this. It's only hubba-hubba.

21. Jim was totally drunk and was wibbly-wobbly.

22. The Middle Eastern hubbly-bubbly scented the air with a fresh odour of apple.

23. Let's get down to the nitty-gritty – when can you finish the building and how much will it cost?

24. Okey-dokey! I'll tag along with you if you wish.

25. Stop shilly-shallying and make a decision now!

26. It was a mission which had to be imposed willy-nilly.

27. The shelves were covered with ornaments and useless knick-knacks.

28. The government's topsy-turvy priorities mean that spending on education remains low.


Explanations (at random):

1. a child's word for dinner

2. a child's word for train

3. a child's word for horse

4. a child's word for dog

5. a small decorative object, esp. in a house

6. nonsense

7. the realities or basic facts of a situation, subject, etc

8. a state of utter confusion

9. showing great unsteadiness

10. underhand dealing; questionable behaviour, esp. surreptitious or illicit sexual behaviour

11. someone who behaves in a way intended to please people in authority

12. an informal expression for OK

13. feeble in quality or character; indecisive

14. to hesitate

15. to waste time, esp. by  being slow or by not being able to make a decision

16. a type of open shoe, often made of rubber, with a V-shaped strap that goes between the big toe and the toe next to it

17. willingly or unwillingly

18. an old-fashioned expression for table tennis

19. a person who acts strangely, originally as a result of long imprisonment

20. a hookah

21. noisy activity

22. a small portable radio transmitter and receiver that can be used for two-way communication while the user is walking

23. words used to hide what is happening or to make it unclear

24. an old-fashioned person

25. deceitful or dishonest dealing; trickery

26. the sound of a bell

27. excellent

28. very small 



Answer key:


Sentence number                         Explanation number

1                                                          11


2                                                          1


3                                                          22


4                                                          26


5                                                          4


6                                                          16


7                                                          18


8                                                          15


9                                                          13                                                       


10                                                        28


11                                                        27


12                                                        21


13                                                        2


14                                                        3


15                                                        19


16                                                        23


17                                                        25


18                                                        10


19                                                        24


20                                                        6


21                                                        9


22                                                        20


QR Code for