Up at Tumba-bloody-rumba shootin’ kanga-bloody-roos
I was going to make this quick, but then I found a poem, and that led to a YouTube clip… any-old-how, my word of the day is ‘tmesis’, and – by complete coincidence – ‘any-old-how’ is a brilliant example of it.
Possibly the only word in the English language to begin with the letters ‘tm’, ‘tmesis’ is a noun and means the practice of separating a word with another word (as in ‘old’ inserted into ‘anyhow’).
These days, it’s a device that is mostly used for emphasis and humour. In Blighty, for example, we are very fond of inserting the mild expletive ‘bloody’, as in, for example, ‘abso-bloody-lutely’. It’s interesting to note that you have to insert the interloping word in the right place for it to ‘work’. ‘Ab-bloody-solutely’, for example, doesn’t cut the mustard.
Other examples include:
The plural is ‘tmeses’ and it’s derived from Greek meaning ‘cutting’ or ‘to cut’.
The Australian writer John O’Grady (1907-1981) provides some brilliant examples of tmesis in his 1959 poem The Integrated Adjective including ‘e-bloody-nough’; ‘kanga-bloody-roos’; and ‘Tumba-bloody-rumba’. (Tumbarumba is a town in New South Wales, Australia.)
The Integrated Adjective
I was down on Riverina, knockin’ round the towns a bit,
An’ occasionally restin’, with a schooner in me mitt;
An’ on one o’ these occasions, when the bar was pretty full
an’ the local blokes were arguin’ assorted kinds o’ bull,
I heard a conversation, most peculiar in its way,
Because only in Australia would you hear a joker say,
“Where yer bloody been, yer drongo? ‘Aven’t seen yer fer a week;
“An’ yer mate was lookin’ for yer when ‘e come in from the Creek;
“‘E was lookin’ up at Ryan’s, an’ around at bloody Joe’s,
“An’ even at the Royal where ‘e bloody never goes.”
An’ the other bloke said “Seen ‘im. Owed ‘im ‘alf a bloody quid,
“Forgot ter give ut back to ‘im; but now I bloody did.
“Coulda used the thing me-bloody-self; been orf the bloody booze,
“Up at Tumba-bloody-rumba shootin’ kanga-bloody-roos.”
Now their voices were a little loud, an’ everybody heard
The peculiar integration of this adjectival word.
But no one there was laughin’, an’ me I wasn’t game,
So I stood around an’ let ’em think I spoke the bloody same.
An’ one of ’em was interested to ask ‘im what he’d got-
How many kanga-bloody-roos he bloody went and shot-
An’ the shootin’ bloke said, “Things are crook; the drought’s too bloody tough;
“I got forty-bloody-seven, an’ that’s good e-bloody-nough.”
An’ this polite rejoinder seemed to satisfy the mob,
An’ everyone stopped listenin’ an’ got on with the job,
Which was drinkin’ beer and arguin’ an’ talkin’ of the heat,
An’ stickin’ in the bitumen in the middle of the street;
But as for me, I’m here to say the interestin’ news
Was “Tumba-bloody-rumba shootin’ kanga-bloody-roos.”
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