In our previous blog, we wondered where all those words in English come from and we explored the linguistic phenomenon present in many children’s rhymes:
Georgy Porgy came out to play Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
Jack and Jill went up the hill Eeny meeny miny moh
Hickory dickory dock Incy wincy spider climbed up the waterspout
We saw that this taste for playing with sounds by repeating syllables, vowel sounds and/or consonants within and among words are clever uses of the technique known as ‘alliteration’. The word is derived from the Latin word ‘latira’, meaning ‘the letters of the alphabet’ and examples have been around a long time. Shakespeare, for example, loved using it:
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life
(Romeo and Juliet)
And nowadays we see it everywhere, especially in the world of commerce and advertising:
Dunkin’ Donuts PayPal Coca-Cola The Horse and Hound (pub)
Many of these words are compounds, where the second part repeats a sound in the first part. So we saw, for example, that a room that is in a mess can be topsy-turvy. Or a person who is decidedly old-fashioned can describe themselves as being a bit of a fuddy-duddy. And work that is boring and routine, with no creativity, can be described as humdrum.
Over to you
1 Here are a few endings of such compounds: do you know or can you guess what the first part might be? Don’t peek at the answers below!
beaver toity hop zag knack chat
trap tube weensy wig jeebies bub
Cover the text below this line – don’t look at the answers yet!
2 So here are the answers: do you know what they mean and how they’re used? Use a dictionary to check.
eager beaver hoity-toity hip-hop zig-zag knick-knack chitchat
claptrap boob-tube teeny-weensy bigwig heebie-jeebies hubbub
Here are some more concepts. Each blank can be filled by an alliterative compound from the box above.
a. A bit arrogant and haughty; someone who thinks they are better or more important than others The __________ girl walked by with her Prada bag and her nose in the air.
b. Small, tiny. She looked great in this __________ black dress.
c. The kind of rhythmic music that commonly accompanies rap.
d. To move in a direction that has sharp alternate left and right changes in direction
e. A small, almost worthless object, often a souvenir or an ornament. The shelf was covered with ornaments and useless ____________.
f. An important, influential person in an institution or community. We went to a meeting addressed by lots of local __________.
g. A state of nervous fear or anxiety. It takes more than a poltergeist to give me the ______________.
h. Friendly conversation about things that aren’t very important. What did you talk about? Oh, nothing really. Just ______________.
i. A loud confused noise, caused by many voices. After the dramatic announcement, I tried to make myself heard above the _______________
j. A tight piece of women’s clothing that covers the chest but not the shoulders. _______________
k. Words or ideas that may sound serious but are really foolish, empty or stupid. Sometimes politicians talk a load of ____________________
l Someone who is extremely enthusiastic and enjoys working very hard. The new teacher works very hard: she comes to school early and leaves very late. She’s a real ________________
A Fill in the gaps
1. Seeing a cockroach, even on the TV, always gives me the heebie- __________
2. He’s a really keen student – an eager __________ if ever I saw one!
3. I like Afro-American music, especially hip- __________
4. Are you angry? No? Not even a teensy __________ bit?
5. It doesn’t surprise me the police stopped his car – it was zig __________ all over the place.
6. When I’m on holiday I always like to buy some local knick-________ as presents for people back home.
7. Don’t believe a word of what he says – it’s just a load of clap_______.
8. We were invited to a lunch with local big _______
9. Women often wear a boob _______ with a strapless dress.
10. Oh, we weren’t talking about anything serious – just a bit of chit_______.
11. We have had enough of her hoity-_____ manner
12. I could hardly hear myself speak above all the hub________ in the theatre bar.
B Discuss with your partner(s)
1 What gives you the heebie-jeebies? Is there a place or building near you that gives you the heebie-jeebies?
2 Do you like hip-hop? Why? / Why not?
3 Do you buy knick-knacks as souvenirs or presents when you go on holiday? Never? Always? Sometimes…..?
4 Do you personally know any local bigwigs? If so, what are they like? Are they a bit hoity-toity? Full of claptrap?
5 At work, are you an eager beaver?
I hope you’re working wonderfully, living lavishly and feeling fulfilled!
Alan, Carob Institute Teacher Trainer
Copyright Alan Marsh 2016