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“it’s the put-er-on-er-er”

When I was brought up in England we used to say things like “it’s the put-er-on-er-er” for the brush used to put the polish on, and the “taker-off-er-er”. Or later, the “mover-out-er-er” for the spouse who must move out. 

Is this “real” English? Why don’t we use it in writing? Why are there two “er” at the end? Is there any description of this in any grammar? How widespread is this construction?

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It a quick and dirty way of adding emphasis to what you are saying. Like italicizing ing ing (that would be looking at something slanted three time normal italics) or Underling ing ing (Word with three lines under it) Have you got that all straightened out better-er-er now?

Liverwort April 17, 2014, 5:00am

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There are a couple of videos at YouTube, both American - the pants-put-er-on-er, and the armor-put-er-on-er, and a few Google hits for taker-off-er. A single 'er' after the preposition makes some sense, but I think the double 'er' was maybe a local variation.

There's also a zipper-up-er, and there's one of these with a double er on Facebook. Others in Google - 'bringer downer', 'setter upper', 'putter downer'. It's just another example of how people, especially children, like to play with language.

There are lots words we use in informal speech we don't use in formal writing. I see no reason not to use them in conversational emails, but they tend to lend themselves more to speech than writing. Some of them are in the dictionary, some not - a thingy, a thingumajig, a whatsit, a whatchacallit, a doodah. There's also a doofah, which I've just seen listed as being similar to thingy, i.e. when you can't remember something's name, but in Scotland at least, it was short for 'do for later', for example a cigarette you put behind your ear 'for later'.

Is it real English? Well the fact that some people say it and other people understand it, and it's not localised to one small group suggests it is real English, if not exactly Standard English (I doubt you'll find it in any dictionary). Is slang real English? I would say of course yes.

I can't find anything at Google Books, so I doubt you'll find this particular structure in grammar books, but I'm sure you'll be able to find something about made-up words like this, and especially how people like to play with words.

Warsaw Will April 17, 2014, 8:21am

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I've always liked 'dubry' or maybe 'doobry' for a thingamajig. Possibly derived from dewberry.

Skeeter Lewis April 17, 2014, 10:59pm

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By golly there IS such a thing as a "pants-putter-downer" on YouTube!

Liverwort April 18, 2014, 3:51am

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@Liverwort - Oh, ye of little faith! :) And here's the one for armor-putter-on-er, with multiple '-er's. -

I suggest we make a collection of these thingies here:

do-er up-er - mainly Oz and NZ by the look of it - a house (or other thing) that needs doing up

The Marysville Gazette was talking about a "pick-er up- er and pull-er down-er" in 1955, but what it is, I have no idea.

The following each have several Google hits:
jumper-talker-downer (or ledge-talker-downer)

You certainly seem to have found a common pattern here, jayles, so I think we can definitely say it's English.

Warsaw Will April 18, 2014, 6:10am

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More at:

google "putter-upper"
"by-stander" and "passer-by" lack the -er on the adverb.

OED has “picker-upper” (1913), “fixer-upper” (1932), “pepper-upper” (1934), “maker-upper” (1936), “builder-upper” (1936), “opener-upper” (1941), “mucker-upper” (1942), and “looker-upper” (1951). But “Ver-up” is actually more frequently attested than “Ver-upper” in the forms collected by the OED.

jayles April 18, 2014, 6:09pm

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jayles April 18, 2014, 6:17pm

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jayles April 18, 2014, 11:09pm

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@jayles - it's in the OED - so there's your answer. I notice these are all from 'up'. (well done,by the way, I hadn't thought of doubling the p in up), so how about with some other prepositions?

Warsaw Will April 18, 2014, 11:45pm

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@WW "putter-onner" , putter-inner, taker-outer, leaver-outer, - all several have hits on google

jayles April 19, 2014, 9:02am

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jayles April 19, 2014, 9:13am

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Curious how looker(s)-on was overtaken by onlooker(s) toward the end of 19th year-hundred.
Also the difference in meaning between passers-by and by-passers (ie people who take the bypass), and the following:

jayles April 19, 2014, 9:22pm

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I remember hearing "looker-after-er". Gives me 18,000 hits on Google.

Chris B April 20, 2014, 11:50pm

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