Reader Jeff sent me an e-mail to this effect:
I recently wrote the word “rigamarole” on my computer, only to have the machine change it to “rigmarole”. Aghast, I checked, and found the latter is definitely a possible choice. On the other hand, I don’t think I have ever heard it without the a between g and m.
Do we have any info on how this is distributed?
An excellent question! I responded:
Yeah, the official spelling is rigmarole but I think especially in the US an extra syllable gets inserted. It’s had lots of variants; the OED lists:
Forms: 17 riggmonrowle, 17 rig-me-role, 17 rig me roll, 17 rig mi rol, 17 rig-my-role, 17 rig-my-roll, 17– rigmarol, 17– rigmarole, 18 rigmarowl (Irish English (north.)), 18– rigmaroll, 18– rigmorale, 19– rigamarole.
What’s particularly interesting is its etymology; it’s from Ragman roll “The roll used in the game of Ragman.”
The spelling rigamarole is given as an alternative in US dictionaries (e.g., AHD), but I’m pretty sure the associated pronunciation with four syllables is far more common in the US; I certainly say it that way, and so does my wife (I just asked). How do you say it (if you do), and what variety of English do you speak?