Saturday, June 30, 2007


For someone supposed to be good with words, I'm not. I always did terribly on the verbal sections of standardized tests, and frequently got feedback from English teachers to expand my vocabulary. I'm a regular book reader but I tend to gloss over words I don't know rather than ingesting them. If I can glean the meanings from the context, good enough, but I don't ever look them up, and I almost never remember them. So I chose a career focused on remedying language disorders - interesting.

A few years ago I got a book called A Word A Day - a Romp through Some of the Most Unusual and Intriguing Words in English. Some of the chapter titles themselves are intriguing: "Words about Words", "Words that Contain the Vowels AEIOU Once and Only Once", "Words for Body Parts that are Used Metaphorically", etc. I used it a few times with my middle schoolers when I was working, but that's it. I was purging my bookshelves today, all part of the year-long diet I'm putting our home on before our next move, and was going to toss it. But I decided I could put it to some use on the blog here - throw out a word-of-the-day once in awhile and see if it conjures any discussion. Maybe we can all practice using it in a sentence or something. Some of the chapters are entitled, "Discover the Theme", and you have to figure out what all the words in that chapter have in common. I cheated and looked up the answers in the back and thought they were pretty hard - this book is for hard-core word nerds, or (as the books calls you) verbivores.

Well, here goes.

In honor of my family's habit of applying Mom's words "snicky-snack" and "nippy-nap" to other words ("grippy-grape"), we take from the Reduplicatives Chapter:

shilly-shally (SHIL-ee-shal-ee)
verb intr. To procrastinate, hestitate or vacillate.
noun Indecision, vacillation.
adverb In an hesitant or irresolute manner.
adjective Vacillating. Exhibiting a lack of decisiveness.
From reduplication of the term "Shall I?"

"Herman shilly-shallied too long on whether to marry Wanda or Rama, and he was left to spend his life with his three black cats and a blind chihuahua."

OK, what's your sentence?


Tona said...

Well, it's a movie quote, actually... "No dilly-dallying, no silly-shallying, let's have a drink and now!"
(--The Happiest Millionaire)

Maren said...

With shilly-shally in her voice, Sheena finally ordered the sweet potato pie. Sorry, I was trying to be more poetic, but not tonight, I guess.

Carol said...

A tired waitress said, " Stop shilly-shallying and tell me what you want to order!"

Geary said...

Actually, I think the shilly part comes from a corruption of Shelly, the English poet, and shally is just a bad, lispy pronunciation of Sally, so we have two names here. "They were always together, so we referred to them as Shelly-Sally."

dave said...



"Oh. Snicky-Snack?"


Geary said...

Well, and the always popular "Tahiti-hooty"

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