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<<Notice you wouldn’t have a chat chit with someone or wear a pair of flop flips. Nor would you challenge a friend to play pong ping or tac toe tic. And you certainly wouldn’t try to pull a flam-flim on them.

All of those just sound wrong, don’t they?>>

Yes, they do. But I don’t think the sound is why they aten’t right. I think it’s that they FEEL wrong in the mouth—which is why they ended up in that particular order in the first place.

I believe the determining factor here is the relentless efficiency language always seeks.

In terms of the musculature involved in the meaningful coordination of lips, teeth, tongue, throat, etc., flim-flam evolved to -im fl- and -im am because it’s easier to move in those directions than the reverse.

This concept is a little easier to FEEL if you consider how awkward Garfunkel and Simon sounds when you compare moving from -ul to -si versus the much smaller, quicker, and easier move from -un to -an.

For me, it’s usially tongue-travel that tips me off.

I love word play. I use a lot of it when I write for kids. Phoneme order is also a huge component in the difference between poetry and prose and figurative and literal language—something I learned from Poet Lauriate Robert Pinsky.

And, I belueve, this same idea also dictates the sound and feel of given names and surnames.

Given names are given to individuals whereas surnamed are taken from the group to which one belongs: Johnson, Carpenter, Weaver, Wright, etc.

I think the same idea applies to nicknames, monikers, and the inevitable shortening-to—a-single-syllable of the more casual versions of our names thattend to be prefered by our familiars and which sound so much more casual and approachable —> “Steve” instead of “Steven.”

And “Scott Monty”?

Thank your parents for the pair of short /o/ sounds there. And for staying within what is the Scottish tradition in both names, I think: “Man of Scotland” + “Mountain”?

Love these language posts. Keep ‘em comin’.


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