Reduplication: Would You Like Milk-Milk With Your Salad-Salad?

One of our recent advertisers, The Real Real, made me think of a cool language thing that’s been on my radar for a few years but that I haven’t covered yet. It’s the doubling of words to show that something is, well, real. I think the first time I heard it was in this ad for the 2015 Ikea catalog: The announcer describes the print catalog as a “book-book.”

Introducing the 2015 Ikea catalog. It’s not a digital book or an ebook, it’s a book-book. The first thing to note is no cables. Not even a power cable. The 2015 Ikea catalog comes fully charged and the battery life is eternal. 

He goes on to talk about tactile technology—turning the page with your finger—and how the content comes preinstalled. It’s fabulous. My husband and I both loved it, and because he prefers print books, and I usually prefer ebooks, to this day we still use “book-book” a lot in our house when we’re talking about his books or when I get a physical book in the mail. “Ooh look! You got a book-book!” (It might be a stretch for Ikea to consider its catalog a book, but the point that they were talking about a physical publication was still abundantly clear.)


Then, a couple of months ago, the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S. was debating whether it would allow producers to use the word “milk” for products like almond milk and soy milk. According to CNBC, people are drinking a lot more of these kinds of plant-based milks, so the dairy industry has spent more than $2 million lobbying this year, which I imagine could be a reason the FDA is suddenly worried that consumers are being misled about the nutritional value of these non-dairy “milk” products. 

And the way I immediately thought about that story was that the FDA was considering limiting the word “milk” so producers could only use it to refer to “milk-milk.” In other words, the original liquid people think of when they think of milk. From what I understand, a law was passed in the EU in 2017 that does stop marketers from using the word “milk” for what some people refer to as—the word fun never stops—“cow-nterfeits.”

Contrastive Focus Reduplication

But doublets like “book-…

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  • February 19, 2019