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Apr 24, 2008

Haplology

H A P L O L O G Y

The word-police will quickly pounce
On words we mortals mispronounce;
But those who love "haplology",
Offer no apology!


—Karen June Miller

Merriam-Webster had this to say...

haplology \hap-LAH-luh-jee\ noun : contraction of a word by omission of one or more similar sounds or syllables

Example sentence: Johnny's teacher, determined to stomp out any instances of haplology in her classroom, corrected him every time he pronounced "probably" as “problee.”

Did you know? Try to say "pierced-ear earrings" three times fast. That exercise will demonstrate why haplology happens: sometimes it's just easier to drop a syllable and leave yourself with something that's easier to say (such as "pierced earrings"). American philologist Maurice Bloomfield recognized the tendency to drop one of a pair of similar syllables a little over a hundred years ago. He has been credited with joining the combining form "hapl-" or "haplo-" (meaning "single") with "-logy" (meaning "oral or written expression") to create "haplology" as a name for the phenomenon. Haplology is quite common in English, and often the contracted forms it generates spread into the written language. In fact, haplology played a role in naming the nation that is the cradle of English: "England" was condensed via haplology from "Engla land."

© 2007 by Merriam-Webster, Incorporated
My own thoughts...

Clearly, every language has created new words by squashing syllables together or routinely omitting a sound that doesn't dance on the tongue. The Spanish language, for instance, has a wonderful practice of melding words together. An example would be the phrases "mi hija" and "mi hijo" (my daughter, my son), which are replaced with "mija" and "mijo." Even the city of Santa Ana, California is invariably called "Santana."

However, haplology is never more delightful than when young children recreate language. When a child says "beauful" instead of beautiful, or a little more off track, "Weeno-diddo" instead of Wienerschnitzel* (like my 8-year old son, Brock, used to say), I'm not eager to correct it out of existence. Childhood is fleeting enough.

*
Wienerschnitzel, the name of the popular food chain, means "Viennese cutlet" which is a traditional Austrian dish