More aggressive reduplication?

Since reading Kie Zuraw’s work on aggressive reduplication (changes where “already-similar syllables are made more similar”, with no apparent phonotactic rationale), I’ve noticed several other possible cases of this in English. As I will probably never use this list for anything else, I offer it here as data for anyone interested in this topic.

As in Zuraw’s paper, rough popularity is indicated by number of Google hits.

Non-standard form ghits Standard form ghits
Barbar the elephant 1,230 Babar the elephant 21,900
Yuri Gargarin 3,780 Yuri Gagarin 312,000
Klu Klux Klan 132,000 Ku Klux Klan 1,700,00
buproprion 95,500 bupropion 4,020,000
snuffalufagus 23,000 snuffalupagus 7,800
snuffleufagus 1,250 snuffleupagus 115,000
onaconna 850
marscarpone 45,400 mascarpone 2,290,000

(“Onaconna” is a deliberate misspelling of “on account of”.)

As evidence of how these pronunciations arise, I can attest that my daughter (3;8) spontaneously starting saying “Barbar” although I was careful to use the correct pronunciation in her first exposure to the Babar books.

Another possibly related case is the Biblical pair Priscilla and Aquilla: Kenyon & Knott 1953 note that Aquilla is often incorrectly given second syllable stress, apparently to make it rhyme with Priscilla. But since this involves making two words rhyme, perhaps it better falls under the rubric of “paradigmatically echoic words” than aggressive reduplication.


Kenyon, J.S. & T. A. Knott (1953) “A Pronouncing Dictionary of American English”. Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster.

4 thoughts on “More aggressive reduplication?

  1. Trochee

    1, #2, and #3 might be contributed to by arhotic dialects’ difficulty in distinguishing /ar/ from /a:/.

  2. Nancy Hall

    <p>That’s certainly possible. It would be interesting to see whether aggressive reduplication plays any role in the spellings that non-rhotic speakers choose when trying to guess whether a vowel is orthographically followed by r.</p>

    <p>I was lazy and didn’t transcribe the words, but I should mention that in the case of “mascarpone”, the correct form is usually heard with [æ] in the first syllable, while the reduplicated form has an [a]. So the vowel is changing, in addition to the insertion of a coda [r].</p>

  3. Kie

    Thanks for sharing these, Nancy! There are also a few hits for snup(p)alup(p)agus, snup(p)leup(p)agus, etc., and about two for the non-reduplicative snup(p)aluf(f)agus, _snup(p)pleufagus. Not surprising, I guess, that it’s the second /p/ that’s more vulnerable.

    But the main reason I wanted to post a comment was that when I read this, I had just been talking with my knitting group about your /r/-dissimilation research. It came up because someone in the group knows someone (native speaker of English) who says ‘appropiate’ a lot.

  4. Geoff Nathan

    Just in case anybody’s looking back at old posts, here’s one that annoys me (taking off my linguist’s hat for a moment)

    accrediDation (i.e. [əkrɛdɪdeɪʃən] in place of [əkrɛdɪtʰeɪʃən] )

    if you deal with administrativese at universities you’ll hear this all the time.

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