FOUR-LETTER WORDS.

No, not the kind you’re thinking of, but the much rarer kind with four identical letters (or, if one cheats a bit, a repetition of a two-letter combination, like chch) in a row. Mark Liberman at Language Log quotes Benjamin Monreal quoting George Starbuck‘s poem, “Verses to exhaust my stock of four-letter words”:

From the ocean floors, where the necrovores
Of the zoöoögenous mud
Fight for their share, to the Andes where
Bullllamas thunder and thud,
And even thence to the heavens, whence
Archchurchmen appear to receive
The shortwave stations of rival nations
Of angels: “Believe! Believe!”
They battle, they battle—poor put-upon cattle,
Each waging, reluctantly,
That punitive war on the disagreeor
Which falls to the disagreeee.

Comments

  1. “Disorder at the zoo” in Swedish is another one: zoooordning.

  2. look here (scroll down a bit), for some words that repeat a letter 5,6,7,8 and even 9 times.

  3. (oh sorry… no, those words don’t repeat the same letter in a row)

  4. A Dutch favourite is the sea duck, zeeeend. Some spoilsports advocate using a couple of tremas, but otherwise the word is perfectly legitimate.
    Another Swedish monstrosity, rahter twisted, is an eel of the creek of the village Råå, spelled in the oldfashioned way: Raaaaaaaal. (Modern: Råååål.) The geographical waterway name is real, though, in the form Råån. The name Rååån for it is contested, but found in a Wikipedia article, probably by some local patriot.

  5. Finnish is disqualified from the start because of the orthographical rule that insists on putting hyphens between similar vowels in different words.
    Estonian is not so encumbered, thus giving us the word for ice’s edge, jäääär, which is also what an Estonian band decided to call themselves.
    On a more theoretical front, in Estonian one can form the word töööööök, which means something like the sickness of the working night. It has three long vowels in three different words that it is a compound of.

  6. jezebel says:

    ‘the sickness of the working night’ !? Please, tell us more.

  7. David Marjanović says:

    So much, then, for claims that Estonian has only three phonemic vowel lengths. Ha!

    which is also what an Estonian band decided to call themselves.

    GAH! If they sing the way their name sounds… ugh.

  8. The site to which cleek linked does actually have another page with quadruple letter words, including the aforementioned Estonian jäääärne and Dutch zeeëend.

  9. And people wonder why Russians tell “slow” jokes about Estonians…

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