E018 Wishy-washy

Welcome to English with Kimberley.

In this episode, I want to talk to you about how English has many words that sound very strange or amusing. For example, ‘wishy-washy’, ‘dollop’, odds and sods’, ‘gobsmacked’, ‘doodle’, ‘blubber’ and so on.

OK, as always, a quiz to start with.

What do you think wishy-washy means?

a) A description for clothes that have not been washed that well.

b) A description of some food or drink that doesn’t taste as strong as it should.

c) A description of someone who wishes they didn’t do what they did.

or d) A description of someone who is uncertain or unsure about something.

Just let me repeat the quiz again – but here’s some help. There are two answers to the question.

What do you think wishy-washy means?

a) A description for clothes that have not been washed that well.

b) A description of some food or drink that doesn’t taste as strong as it should.

c) A description of someone who wishes they didn’t do what they did.

or d) A description of someone who is uncertain or unsure about something.

So, what are the answers? Did you get ‘b’ and ‘d’?

An example of ‘b’, something that doesn’t taste as it should do, would be:

‘This teabag must have been used a thousand times, it’s very wishy-washy.’ That is, ‘a wishy-washy cup of tea’ – weak tasting or not as strong as it should be.

And an example of ‘d’, someone who is uncertain or unsure, would be something like this:

‘He’s being very wishy-washy about what he wants to do with his life.’ That is, someone who is so uncertain they can’t make their mind up.

Lots of these kinds of words are used in British, Australian and American English.

The BBC commented on the fact that many of these ’whimsical’ or ‘playful words’ have come from writers. For example, Shakespeare with ‘bedazzled’, Charles Dickens with ‘whiz-bang’, and Lewis Carroll with ‘mimsy’.

But Asutralia also has some words that sound very playful, these are usually place names that have come from an aboriginal or indigenous language. Examples are, ‘Wagga Wagga’, ‘Wooloomooloo’ and ‘Bungle Bungle’.

OK, to our final quiz.

Which of these ‘fun’ sounding words are Australian place names?

a) Bindi Bindi

b) Pucklechurch

c) Yabba Yabba

or d) Nether Wallop

Let’s have some fun repeating these words.

Remember, which ones – and there are two – are aboriginal place names?

a) Bindi Bindi

b) Pucklechurch

c) Yabba Yabba

or d) Nether Wallop

Did you get ‘a’ and ‘c’ with ‘Bindi Bindi’ and ‘Yabba Yabba’?

‘Pucklechurch’ and ‘Nether Wallop’ are in England – which has many whimsical place names.

If you go to the script of the podcast, you’ll find at the end a few links on the topic – just go to iTunes or visit www.goaustralia.biz

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You can also leave feedback about this podcast on iTunes.

I hope you have enjoyed this podcast and you’ll join me again.

Useful Links

E-M. (2017). 40 Funny-sounding words in English – Espresso English @ https://www.espressoenglish.net/40-funny-sounding-words-in-english/

BBC. (2017). Culture – Why British English is full of silly-sounding words @ http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20170619-why-british-english-is-full-of-silly-sounding-words

Daily Writing Tips. Sharon. (2017). Reduplicatives and their meaning @ https://www.dailywritingtips.com/reduplicatives-and-their-meanings/

Notes:

Because the definition of ‘wishy-washy’ uses the word ‘description’ (for example, ‘Wishy-washy is a description of….), we know that it must be an adjective, don’t we?

Words like Bindi Bindi though are nouns – and because they start with capital letters they are called proper nouns.

You may find the following episodes helpful:

Word groups: E002 Parts of Speech

Definitions: E004 An Apple Is a Fruit