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Tmesis

I received a question from Jerrel de Kok today which I thought might interest those following this blog. First, let me apologize from my long silence. Lexiteria, the parent company of alphaDictionary, has been working on a large order for highly customized frequency lists for 25 languages from Google. It has taken over my life for the past year but today I am happy to announce it is completed.

Now for the question:

Do you have a service where I could enter a definition and get the appropriate word to use? The situation that got me thinking about this is as follows. I got an email from a service member and in it was contained the expression; ‘WAAA-FRIEKING-HOOOO!’ I would think the English language has a word describing the interjection of one word into the middle of another.

It does, indeed, Jerrel, though you might have trouble pronouncing it: “tmesis”. You might prefer the old fashioned linguistic term “sandwich word”, since the interloping word is sandwiched in between the first and second part of the matrix word. The interloper is usually vulgar: abso-damn-lutely, far-freaking-out, kanga-bloody-roos.

They are not always vulgar, however, as any-old-how, what-place-soever, and a-whole-nother demonstrate. The misanalysis of the latter matrix word is giving rise to a new word in some dialects.

Sandwich terms are speech flourishes we use in order to maximally emphasize a word. Most linguists would not consider them a legitimate part of English grammar.

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