willy-nilly topsy-turvy hurry-scurry how does these words come to meaning? is there some story behind?
Oct 29, 2021 8:26 AM
Answers · 5
You find these expressions in some of Shakespeare’s plays. He has a way of bringing their basic sense home for me. In Henry IV (part I), Hotspur says this about rebelling against the kingdom: “Turn it topsy-turvy down.” In Hamlet, a Clown explains how a person can drown without us really know his intention: “Here lies the water; good: here stands the man; good; if the man go to this water, and drown himself, it is, will he, nill he, he goes.”
October 29, 2021
Willy-nilly dates back to the 17th century, meaning 'will i-nill i' (I am willing-I am unwilling), referring to a state of indecision or indirection. E.g 'he was forced to go to the dance, willy-nilly (whether he liked it or not) or 'they drove around willy-nilly'. Topsy turvy dates back to the 16th century, based on 'top' and the 'terve' ( a medieval term that is now obsolete) which meant 'overturn'. So it generally refers to either the state of being upside down, e.g ' the cat is all topsy-turvy on the bed', or a state of disorder, confusion and chaos, e.g. 'Things are all topsy-turvy at work today' The -sy and -vy in 'topsy turvy'(and perhaps the -lly in 'willy-nilly' have been added through a process called reduplication, in which sounds are repeated to add emphasis leading phrases such as these to sound more rhythmic and catchy.
October 29, 2021
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