unstructured, chaotic


higgledy-piggledy = drunter und drüber, kreuz und quer, durcheinander



“The world’s governing structures are HIGGLEDY-PIGGLEDY: disorderly, heads and tails in any or every direction.”

Ralph C. Bryant - 'Governance for a Higgledy-Piggledy Planet'

Did you

reduplicative adjective phrase

- in a confused, disordered, or random manner



Edward Moor, in “Suffolk Words and Phrases” (London, 1823), quotes a list of “conceited rhyming words or reduplications” from the 1768 edition of John Ray’s “Collection of English Words Not Generally Used”, all said to “signify any confusion or mixture”.

The list has higgledy-piggledy, hurly-burly, hodge-podge, mingle-mangle, arsy-versy, kim-kam, hub-bub, crawly-mauly, and hab-nab.

“To which he might have added”, Moor writes, crincum-crankum, crinkle-crankle, flim-flam, fiddle-faddle, gibble-gabble, harum-scarum, helter-skelter, hiccup-suickup, hocus-pocus, hotch-potch, hugger-mugger, humdrum, hum-strum, hurry-scurry, jibber-jabber, prittle-prattle, shilly-shally, tittle-tattle, and topsy-turvy. Many of these date from the 16th century.

Adapted from: The Etymology Dictionary

English has four types of reduplication:

(1) RHYMING reduplication: hokey-pokey, razzle-dazzle, super-duper, boogie-woogie, teenie-weenie, walkie-talkie, hoity-toity, wingding, ragtag, easy-peasy, hurdy-gurdy.

(2) EXACT reduplications (baby-talk-like): bye-bye, choo-choo, night-night, no-no, pee-pee, poo-poo.

(3) ABLAUT (vowel) reduplications: chit-chat, hip-hop, ding-dong, jibber-jabber, kitty-cat, knick-knack, pitter-patter, splish-splash, zig-zag, flimflam, wibble-wobble.

(4) SHM-reduplication can be used with most any word; e.g. baby-shmaby, sale-shmale, apple-schmapple, fancy-shmancy. This process is a feature of American English from Yiddish, starting among the American Jews of New York City, then becoming New York dialect, and then out to the whole country.

SMUGGLE OWAD into a conversation today, say something like:

“Jim’s office was full of boxes, files and folders piled HIGGLEDY-PIGGLEDY on top of each other."

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Paul Smith

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