Ancient Greek_gr. τμῆσις "tmēsis", "a cutting" < _gr. τέμνω "temnō", "I cut") is a linguistic phenomenon or figure of speechin which a word is separated into two parts, with other words occurring between them. [The Oxford Companion to the English Language, Oxford University Press (1992), p. 1044 (ISBN 0-19-214183-X)]
Tmesis of compound verbs
Tmesis of prefixed verbs (whereby the prefix is separated from the simple verb) was an original feature of the
Ancient Greeklanguage, common in Homer(and later poetry), but not used in Attic prose. Such separable verbs are also part of the normal grammatical usage of some modern languages, such as German.
Tmesis is found as a poetic or rhetorical device in classical
Latinpoetry, such as Ovid's " Metamorphoses". Words such as "circumdare", to surround, are split apart with other words of the sentence in between, e.g. "circum virum dant": "they surround the man". This device is used in this way to create a visual image of surrounding the man by means of the words on the line.
Tmesis in Ancient Greek
Ancient Greekis somewhat of a misnomer, since there is not necessarily a splitting of the prefix from the verb; rather the consensus now seems to be that the separate prefix or pre-verb reflects a stage in the language where the prefix had not yet joined on to the verb. There are many examples in Homer's epics, the Iliadand the Odyssey, both of which preserve archaic features. One common and oft-cited example is _gr. κατὰ δάκρυα λείβων "kata dakrua leibōn" "shedding tears", in which the pre-verb _gr. κατά "kata" "down" has not yet joined the verbal participle _gr. λείβων "leibōn" "shedding". In later Greek, these would combine to form the compound verb _gr. καταλείβων "kataleibōn" "shedding (in a downwards direction)".
Tmesis in English
One kind of tmesis involves the insertion of a word or phrase into another word, often for humorous effect. The insertion may occur between the parts of a
compound word, or between syllableboundaries ( dystmesis).
It is also referred to as "tumbarumba", possibly due to the popularity of tmesis in Australian speech (
Tumbarumbabeing an Australian town), or possibly due to the poem "Tumba Bloody Rumba" by John O'Grady, which includes several tmeses including "Tumba-bloody-rumba", "e-bloody-nough", and "kanga-bloody-roos". [ [http://www.abc.net.au/overnights/stories/s1307296.htm Tumba Bloody Rumba] ]
Linguists sometimes describe tmesis as a form of
Representative English examples include:
*"Abso-fuckin’-lutely" and "congratu-fuckin'-lations", in which an
expletiveor profanityis inserted; "see" Expletive infixation
*"La-dee-freakin'-da", a variation of the above in which a less offensive infix is substituted. This phrase was popularized by fictional character
Matt Foley, portrayed by Chris Farleyon " Saturday Night Live".Fact|date=September 2008
*"Wel-diddly-elcome", a signature phrase of fictional character
Ned Flanders', where a nonsense word is inserted. Note the reduplicationof part of the host word.
*"Any-old-how", in which the divisibility of "anything" (as in "any old thing") is mimicked with the usually indivisible "anyhow".
*"A-whole-nother", in which "another" ("an"+"other") is reanalyzed as "a"+"nother".
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