no fuss no muss
One of the very nicest things about learning a variety of languages – besides, of course, being able to attempt communication with a variety of people – is chance of spotting arbitrary similarities in completely unrelated languages. For instance: in both informal Eastern Armenian and Khalkh Mongolian, you can use an m-reduplication (i.e. repeat the word, changing the initial letter to ‘m’) to mean, generally, this thing and some other things that I don’t care to specify at the moment.1
An Armenian example: հաջող-մաջող (hajogh-majogh), ’bye-mye, or good-bye, see you later, &c., though of course very informal, and always good for a laugh when used by a foreigner.2 There are two special uses: խորոված-մորոված (khorovats-morovats), meaning Armenian barbecue and its traditional accompaniments, onions and potatoes; and կոֆե-մոֆե (kofe-mofe), meaning coffee and its traditional accompaniments, candy and cake.3
A Mongolian example: Уулзаж-муулзаж чадах уу? (uulzaj-muulzaj chadah uu?): Can you meet [and teach] them, then?4 In Mongolian, too, you can say that you went to the store to get some кофи-мофи (kofi-mofi), though in Mongolia, it just means that you got coffee and some other stuff, not necessarily candy and cakes. There is, however, a major difference in the Armenian and Mongolian usage: in Mongolian, words with the initial consonant ‘m’ can be reduplicated in this way, but a ‘z’ is substituted instead; e.g., мѳѳг-зѳѳг (möög-zöög) mushrooms and some other stuff. In Armenian, I haven’t heard reduplication in words with an initial ‘m’ used in this amusing way, though this has not seemed to cause any significant problems.
- There is no derisive effect intended, as with the vastly more well-known (in English) schm-reduplication, on which see Nevins & Vaux ‘Metalinguistics, schmetalinguistics’ and Southern, Contagious Couplings: Transmission of Expressives in Yiddish Echo Phrases; update: Southern apparently traces this reduplication back to Turkish, which would explain why it was present in both Armenian and Mongolian, but not why the usage is not dismissive.
- First heard in the summer of 2008, from a host cousin.
- You will notice, in the case of ‘coffee-moffee’ that Armenian uses this repetition with a Russian loan-word, instead of the Armenian word, սուրճ (surj); I sometimes imagine I’ve heard people say սուրճ-մուրճ, but if I have, they weren’t Armenian.
- Overhead my Mongolian tutor on the phone with a music teacher; extra meaning supplied from context.