Looking Glass Language

a word bird reflects on life & language

Wordy Wednesday: tmesis


(WARNING: this particular Wordy Wednesday starts off sweetly, but the language it contains goes downhill from here on in…)



If you’re a fan of The Simpsons, you’ll no doubt have heard Ned Flanders, Homer’s much abused, luxuriantly moustached Christian neighbour, saying “Wel-diddly-elcome, Simpsons!” 

Ned’s homey catchphrase is an example of tmesis. And if that sounds like Greek to you, it’s because it is: Tmesis comes from the Ancient Greek for ‘a cutting’; ‘I cut’, and it’s the linguistic phenomenon in which a word or phrase is separated into two parts, with other words interjected between them.

Other homey examples of tmesis are “just put it any-old-where,” and ‘it doesn’t matter, do it any-old-how’.

While these coinages are as wholesome as Mom’s apple pie, some of the most effective examples of tmesis are less so, involving as they do the insertion of a swear word into a word or phrase. There’s even a special term for this, ‘expletive infixation’, used for phrases such as:

Ri-goddam-diculous (a coinage by John Wayne)


That’s e-bloody-nough

We English love a swear word, and tmesis gives us lots of opportunities to use one of our favourites, the ‘F’ word, in ways that are strangely satisfying, and hard to take offense at:


That’s fan-fucking-tastic!

Well, la-dee-fucking-da…

I’m a bit discom-fucking-bobulated by that…

Unbe-fucking-lievably (used by Stephen Fry* as an example of tmesis at BorderKitchen in The Hague in 2011, according to Wikipedia). 

*If you’re in the UK, don’t miss this week’s serving of Fry’s English Delight on Radio 4, where you’ll hear the ‘F’ word eulogised, euphemised and criticised.

Single Post Navigation

2 thoughts on “Wordy Wednesday: tmesis

  1. Pingback: Reading Digest: Theater Appreciation Edition | Dead Homer Society

  2. Pingback: Wordy Wednesday: neologism | Looking Glass Language

Comment here

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

@Mini.Munch the Blog

Every carrot, calorie and cow

Adventures of Hal

Fran, Gareth and friends explore the world on Hal, our 35ft yacht

Things I think about while I drive to work

Random topics and conversation about how I view the world I live in

Curiouser & Curiouser

My curious little blog.

Knowingly Undersold

Selling discount truths at an exorbitant price! (Wrap your mind around that one)

David Baker's Novel Factory

Novel = New, Work of Fiction: Fact + History = Factory

Mike and the Marathon

I’m running the 2013 London Marathon for ICAN

A Few Kind Words

adventures in language and life


a word bird reflects on life & language

Helen Weavers's Blog

Stuff I think about...

The Seatonist

Dreaming of waves...

Where's my ruby slippers?

There's no place like home. Especially if you don't live there.


Letters from London by Giovanna Forte

Fromage Homage

A British Isles Cheese Odyssey

%d bloggers like this: