Saturday, February 25, 2017


My brother Allen and I were listening to a Ted Talk podcast yesterday. In it, Jonathan Rossiter, a charming roboticist, was talking about creating new kinds of robots. As he was describing biodegradable robots and detailing how to make basic components at home, he said in his delightful British accent, "If you take some jelly and some salts, and do a bit of jiggery-pokery, you can make an artificial muscle."

In what must have seemed like choreographed synchrony, Allen and I both gasped, looked at each other, and burst out laughing.

"Jiggery-pokery?" What was this delicious new phrase? And why had we never heard it before!? We were instantly obsessed.

We finished the Ted Talk, all the while laughing and completely amused by our new favorite verbalism. Both of us, I'm sure, were trying to figure out in our own heads how we could casually interject "jiggery-pokery" into a sentence as soon as possible … because that's how brains work in our family.

The next podcast in queue was a Grammar Girl episode on double dactyl poetry. (And let me quickly interject how much I love Grammar Girl. She's pretty much my hero. I never miss a lesson; I'm enlightened each and every engaging episode.)

Mignon Fogarty, Grammar Girl herself, in honor of National Grammar Day, was giving us a lesson on dactyls—three syllable words or phrases where the first syllable is stressed and followed by two unstressed syllables, like "octopus" or "applesauce." Then we learned about double dactlys—a distinct form of poetry in which the title is always a two-dactyl proper noun, like "Grammar Girl Fogarty" or "Jonathan Rossiter."

We learned that often the first line of a double dactyl poem is a silly or nonsensical phrase, like "Hibbely dibbely" or "Capital underpants." Then Mignon told us where to find the rest of the requirements for a proper double dactyl: in the introduction to the book Jiggery-Pokery: A Compendium of Double Dactyls.

What!? There's a book titled Jiggery-Pokery!? Like, this is a real thing and not just an amusing phrase perfectly punctuated by British roboticists when they're talking about putting salt on household jelly to create homemade robot components? The revelatory moment for us two word nerds was too blissful to describe.

So as a heads up, you'll be seeing and hearing much more jiggery-pokery from my brother and me going forward. Because, after all, phrases like "jiggery-pokery" are what make the English language okery dokery.

#JiggeryPokery #GrammarGirl #MignonFogarty #TedTalks #JonathanRossiter #AskUncleMarty