…today’s secret…Tik-tok vs tok-tik

Ever wonder why we say…

…tik-tok, mish-mash, hip-hop, flip-flop, tic-tac, ding-dong, King Kong, ping-pong…

…instead of…

…tok-tik, mash-mish, hop-hip, flop-flip, tac-tic, dong-ding, Kong-King, pong-ping?

Because it’s a written grammar rule in English that we don’t know – but use it anyway subconsciously.

It’s called the rule of ablaut reduplication.

Just forget that name. It’s not worth remembering.

Here’s the breakdown of why two words are positioned like they are rather than the way they aren’t…if there are two words, the first is ‘I’ and the second is either ‘A’ or ‘O’.

Just think of it as an unwritten rule and dilly-dally along. You just know it and do it.

Here’s another of the unwrittens…

…in describing an item/a person…the order must be opinion-size-age-shape-color-origin-material-purpose-noun.

Rearrange ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ and you sound foolish. Same with ‘green little men.’ It’s always been ‘little green men.’

I have a ‘lovely little old black book’
She was a ‘repulsive big breasted Appalachian grandmother’

Why am I telling you this?

Because unwritten rules abound when helping people work and play well with others.

But, again, you know this. You just don’t talk about it.

The tendency these days is for you to do what is ‘correct and expected.’ Surgeons do this. Bridge engineers do this. Good for us.

But, I have not seen any spanking new wide-eyed college graduate working with offenders, the addicted, the homeless, etc. help society’s fringe people by being right and proper all the time. Sorry.

People who help people come in from society’s cold quietly keep track of what should have worked and didn’t. When they run through all of the ‘by the book’ things to do they start thinking of some of the things that maybe don’t.

They start doing some out-of-the ordinary things, things that might seem a little crazy, maybe dangerous.

These little unwritten rules are what ignite fireworks inside a marginalized person’s belly, what parches a thirst that’s crying out to be quenched.

Gut feelings, hunches, premonitions, intuitions…they’re good. It’s OK to play it by ear from time to time. Clip-clop to the management, but hopefully along the way you zig-zag a little and break a rule or two.

Just don’t tell people about your unwritten rules. Just do them.