Scott in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, wonders if the words nother as in a whole nother and abso-bloomin-lutely are real words. Yes, they are! The construction a whole nother is an example of what linguists call tmesis, which involves the insertion of a lexical element that doesn’t make a whole new word. In-fixing, which is quite similar, and might be considered a form of tmesis, involves inserting a lexical element into a word or compound to make a new word. James McMillian’s article in American Speech, “Infixing and Interposing in English,” offers lots of examples. This is part of a complete episode.

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