Tmesis

girl with hand covering her mouth

What-the-frig-ever is a tmesis?

Fan-freaking-tastic! Whoopde-damn-doo!

These are examples of tmesis. Tmesis is when a word is divided into parts, and another word is inserted inside of it, often for comic effect or emphasis. It comes from the Greek tmesis, meaning “to cut.”

A classic example of this is from the Shakespearean play Richard II: “How-heinous-ever it be.”

Another example is a-whole-nother, which often gets decried as being poor English. What-the-heck-ever. Here’s what Merriam-Webster has to say in defense of this word.

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