New Word #58: Alliteration

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Alliteration means the occurrence of the same letter or sound at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words.

There are so many occurrences of alliteration in English–brand names, slang, routine phrases, new phrases–that it is impossible to have an exhaustive list. Here I only list a few that I have regularly encountered. For example, one of my friends really likes to say “holy moly”, which is expressed whenever there is the tiniest provocation.

Let me know if there are any phrases of alliteration that you like to use and leave me a comment or two.

hocus pocus: meaningless talk or activity, often designed to draw attention away from and disguise what is actually happening.

holy moly: used to express surprise or dismay.

cookie cutter: (noun, North America) It is used to denote something mass-produced or lacking any distinguishing characteristics.

daredevil: a reckless person who enjoys doing dangerous things.

telltale: revealing, indicating, or betraying something.

wear and tear: the loss, injury, or stress to which something is subjected by or in the course of use. For example, because shoes worn for sports are likely to become dusty and go through some wear-and-tear, easy care is a plus. Wear and tear can also be used on the emotional exhaustion one feels about a job or a relationship.

riffraff: disreputable or undesirable people.

win win: (adjective) of or denoting a situation in which each party benefits in some way. “We are aiming for a win-win situation.”

clink clank: a usually repeated noise made up of generally alternating clinks and clanks

fender bender: a minor collision between motor vehicles.

chit chat: inconsequential conversation.

fight or flight: the instinctive physiological response to a threatening situation, which readies one either to resist forcibly or to run away.

part and parcel: an essential or integral component. “Stress was part and parcel of the job.”

singsong: (of a person’s voice) having a repeated rising and falling rhythm.

publish or perish: “Publish or perish” is an aphorism describing the pressure to publish academic work in order to succeed in an academic career.

zigzag: a line or course having abrupt alternate right and left turns.

picture perfect: (North America) lacking in defects or flaws; ideal.

road rage: violent anger caused by the stress and frustration involved in driving a motor vehicle in difficult conditions.

hit or miss: as likely to be unsuccessful as successful. “It depends on what mood the chef is in –the food can be really hit or miss in that café.”

round robin: a series or sequence, each item taking its turn and being treated equally.

mom-and-pop: (adjective North America) denoting a small store of a type often run by a married couple.

slippery slope: an idea or course of action which will lead to something unacceptable, wrong, or disastrous.

mumbo jumbo: This expression refers to superstitions or needlessly complex and obscure language.

29 thoughts on “New Word #58: Alliteration

    1. Wow, love heebie-jeebies, which sound very anxiety prone. Though I didn’t know this word before, I could feel the anxiety the moment I saw it. I will learn to use it and mumbo jumbo next time when I have a chance.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I’ve started using alliterative titles for my “Journal” entries – eg Buzzing and Bikers – but I’m beginning to wonder whether that was good idea, because now I have to continue using them!

    The Finnish language has something called “vowel assonance”, which means that if a word starts with a certain set of vowels it has to continue to use use vowels from the same set. eg a, o and u form one set and ä, ö and y form another set. So pöytä and pouta are possible words, but pöutä isn’t possible. This isn’t quite the same as alliteration but it does illustrate the fact that it is natural to enjoy the music of having related sounds in words.

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    1. Wow, you are like those musicians who love to create alliteration for their songs. You make Finnish language sound so poetical. I read a book somewhere that says Finnish is rather unique among northern European in their language and their custom. I don’t know if it is true, but it is very intriguing. Yes, humans do have a natural preference for more musical phrases …

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      1. Finnish is almost alone in Europe, in that it doesn’t belong to the Indo-European family of languages It belongs to the Uralic family, along with Estonian and Hungarian + some lesser-known languages that have relatively few speakers.

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  2. This just augmented my knowledge of alliterations. Thank you! Before this post, I used to believe that alliterations were limited to the occurrence of the same LETTER at the beginning of adjacent words.
    Never realised that the same SOUND made the list too, like hocus pocus.
    I’d like to add one to the list- Namby Pamby: weak in strength or character.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are right. Alliteration is about the initial syllables. I haven’t found a word to take care of the same (or similar) sound of the middle and ending syllables. You are wonderful. Namby Pamby is a great addition. I just googled it and it was started by a poet who is also a satirist. Wish I will check him out one of these days.

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      1. We use the term reduplication to refer to words that change a letter such as ‘namby pamby’, ‘holy moly’ etc. Reduplication also uses alliteration such as wearing ‘flip-flops’, or listening to ‘hip hop’. A further example is making up joke compounds for effect, such as ‘money – schmoney’. Hope this helps.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thank you. Those are indeed wonderful alliterations and people use them regularly. Humans, I guess, have a natural tendency for repeating the same sound catch the rhythm of their own speech. For a long time, I had not noticed; but once I noticed it, it started to pop up regularly.

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