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Sometimes in very informal or comic book language one will see phrases such as "bonkity bonk", "flippity-flop", and "knockity knock". Other examples include "crunchity", "swirlity", etc, etc.

I have heard people add the suffix "-ity" to a number of verbs and it always seems to imply a progressive action. For example, "knockity knock" can be used to refer to the action of knocking on a door while it is still happening.

This suffix is different than "-ing" which also shows present progression. It wouldn't sound right to say "knocking knock" or "bonking bonk".

But what IS the difference? And what is the correct term for this suffix?

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Quite often also spelled "-ety", as in blankety-blank, a euphemism for some (any, really) taboo term; it's one aural equivalent of "%!#*$" in a speech balloon. The reason the suffix is there is strictly for sound -- this is onomatopoeic, imitating rhythmic sounds, and the suffix gives a pattern da da da da which occurs often in nature and in human communication, from knocking on doors to speaking English to Beethoven's Fifth Symphony to Morse Code. –  John Lawler Jan 11 at 21:23
    
Good points. So for single words ("bonkity", "blankety", "knockity") perhaps these would count as interjections rather than as progressive actions...? While onomatopoeia makes sense, it still seems as if there is a degree to which the suffix functions as an indicator of progression, rather than for ease of speech alone. –  user62022 Jan 11 at 21:34
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Onomatopoeic speech is iconic. The best symbol for anything is the thing itself; the best aural signal of progression is a progression of sounds. –  John Lawler Jan 11 at 21:43
    
I guess it could be labeled an "onomatopoeic progressive suffix" or the "onomatopoeic progressive tense"... to be unnecessarily technical. :) –  user62022 Jan 11 at 21:55
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Oh, no. Progressive is not a tense, and this suffix is not part of grammar, and certainly doesn't mean the same thing as the English progressive. It doesn't mean anything, any more than mmm-hmm does, and doesn't need a separate name, certainly not one confusing it with real grammar. –  John Lawler Jan 11 at 22:06

3 Answers 3

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According to free dictionary, the suffix -ity indicates a state or condition. There are plenty of "formal" words having this suffix also:

  • angularity
  • density
  • eternity
  • fidelity

(And that is just a sampling of the more common words I found in a search, stopping at f).

So, it seems the intent of knockity is to indicate the state of being knocked. As you suggest, to show that the action is currently taking place.

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True! And so added to a verb rather than a subject would categorize this suffix as... what? If it is used as a present progressive suffix, perhaps John Lawler is correct in pointing to onomatopoeia as the reason -ity/-ety is used versus -ing. –  user62022 Jan 11 at 21:41

Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo (also called "The Magic Song"[1]) is a novelty song introduced in the 1950 film Cinderella. It is pronounced more often as Bippity Boppity Boo. They are nonsense magic words, probably based on itty bitty, a kind of baby talk for small The phrase Bibbidi-bobbidi-boo goes back at least to the story "Bubnoff and the Devil" by Ivan Turgenev (1818-1883)

itty is first recorded in 1798, in a letter of Jane Austen, and is a baby-talk form of little. itty-bitty is first recorded in 1855.

Adding itty, as in knockitty-knock is just being nonsensical, jovial in a childish way.

NB: This does not apply to nitty-gritty, which has a very unsavory origin, and maintains it's scandalous overtones.

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This is a good point. This may very well be the historical root of the suffix. –  user62022 Jan 12 at 2:07

This is an instance of reduplication, wherein the word is repeated and often modified slightly. It is quite common and found in such phrases as super-duper and willy-nilly, the latter of which originated in the phrase will he, nill he? 'does he want to or does he not?'.

I do not believe that there is any term in particular for using -ity, however. Any similarity between the suffix -ity in knockity-knock and that in such words as normality, ability, &c. is most likely coincidental.

Whereas other forms of reduplication undergo no change, such as bye-bye and night-night, some undergo a change in the stem, such as criss-cross and knick-knack, and yet others change both the stem and add an affix, such as kitty-cat and fancy-shmancy.

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