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For example: "I could tell he had had a great time at the circus."

If you're not repeating the word for emphasis, is there a term for the sequential usage, other than "coincidence"?

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That one is just the past perfect. But there are eleven hads here, and even Wikipedia doesn't have a name for it. It's certainly not "coincidence" though. I'd call it "contrivance". –  FumbleFingers Oct 31 '11 at 5:18
@FumbleFingers That link's awesome - thank you! –  Samuel Hulick Oct 31 '11 at 5:58
Do you have any more examples other than "had had"? –  Hugo Oct 31 '11 at 6:50
@Hugo something like "She didn't know that that dog was dangerous" would fit, it seems. –  onomatomaniak Oct 31 '11 at 7:04
@FumbleFingers it is perfectly possible to construct an arbitrarily long repetition with valid English. Consider a sign about a store that said "Smith, and, Jones." I write: "There is no comma between Smith and and and and and Jones." But then you question my punctuation and ask: "Isn't there a comma between Smith and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and and Jones?" And I can reciprocate by questioning your punctuation. Insanity ensues. And, yes, I think contrivance would be the mot juste. –  Fraser Orr Oct 31 '11 at 14:30

2 Answers 2


You might call this a homonymic phrase (or compound).

Since homonyms are words that sound the same (or are spelled the same) this might be a proper term do describe a phrase, or a part of a phrase, that includes them.

Reading through the closest article to the subject, that I could find in wikipedia did not reveal any specific terms that would cover this scenario.

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I down voted because you said it was epizeuxis, and then you corrected yourself and said that it wasn't (because the author said it was a grammatical structure not for emphasis.) I'd be happy to reverse if you edit to correct. –  Fraser Orr Oct 31 '11 at 14:21
@FraserOrr, I was not clear - in rhetoric consecutively repeating the words is called epizeuxis. However, that is really a sidenote and not related to what OP asks, so I removed it. –  Unreason Oct 31 '11 at 14:36
fair enough, I reversed my downvote. –  Fraser Orr Oct 31 '11 at 16:55

There are plenty of contrived sentences allowing anything up to an infinite number of repetitions, but no-one has actually given an example where repeating a word serves to emphasise anything. So how about...

Me: I can see the appeal of Polanski's films if you're a paedophile.

You: I like Polanski's films, but I'm not a paedophile!

Me: I didn't mean you you. I mean if someone else was a paedophile.

Okay, maybe not the best example. But I do think it conveys emphasis.

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