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View Full Version : Which is preferred, rigmarole or rigamarole?


Skott
07-28-2009, 01:04 AM
I've always heard people say "rig-a-ma-role". However, when checking on onelook.com, "rigmarole" (a spelling I'd never seen) has 25+ entries, while "rigamarole" only has 15. Is one more proper than the other?

GuanoLad
07-28-2009, 02:11 AM
I believe "rigmarole" is the only correct spelling, and pronunciation.

UDS
07-28-2009, 02:23 AM
The OED has rigmarole going back to 1736, and no entry at all for rigamarole. nor any suggestion that there is a variant pronunciation which inserts an extra syllable.

Google offers c. 287,000 hits for rigmarole, and c. 90,600 for rigamarole, so the latter form is used, but it seems to be the minority usage.

There is a board game in the US called Rigamarole. My wild speculation woudl be that the manufacturers of this game inserted an extra letter in rigmarole so that they could trademark the word thus coined, and it may be that the promotion of the board game has led to the spread of rigamarole generally. The fact that the OED doesn't note it suggests that it may be (a) a US usage, and (b) a recent one.

Wendell Wagner
07-28-2009, 02:28 AM
My copy of the OED only lists "rigmarole" as the spelling and only gives that pronunciation without the inserted vowel. My copy of the American Heritage Dictionary gives "rigamarole" as a possible alternate spelling with the inserted vowel as being the pronunciation for that spelling. I'd say that you should assume that "rigmarole" is the standard spelling and pronunciation. It appears that "rigamarole" is slowly becoming more common as the pronunciation and even more slowly as the spelling. This is a common sort of pronunciation change, where a vowel is inserted to make the word easier to pronounce.

GuanoLad
07-28-2009, 02:29 AM
I suggest you avoid the confusion, and use "boondoggle" instead.

:)

Rigamarole
07-28-2009, 02:55 AM
I believe "rigmarole" is the only correct spelling, and pronunciation.

I tend to disagree.

panache45
07-28-2009, 08:14 AM
I tend to disagree.

You would.

I put "rigamarole" in the same category as "sherbert."

jasperbittergrab
11-17-2015, 06:06 AM
You would.

I put "rigamarole" in the same category as "sherbert."

And "orangutang!"

Gary T
11-17-2015, 10:10 AM
There was too much rigamarole involved when the athalete and the orangutang were eating sherbert.

lance strongarm
11-17-2015, 10:26 AM
I believe "rigmarole" is the only correct spelling, and pronunciation.

I would say the opposite on both counts. I've never heard it pronounced or spelled that way, always "rigamarole."

In the end, it doesn't really matter, of course.

Really Not All That Bright
11-17-2015, 10:32 AM
Where do you live? Rigamarole sounds like the sort of pronunciation somebody attempting a comedic Italian accident might use.

kaylasdad99
11-17-2015, 11:12 AM
Or a musical theatre librettist looking to make a line scan.

Rhythmdvl
11-17-2015, 05:12 PM
New England/New York area checking in. Not that it's a word often heard, but the rigamarole pronunciation is what I am used to. It's particularly apparent when I spell it; I tend to add the extra 'a' and then have to look it up.

Hail Ants
11-18-2015, 12:39 AM
I too live the Northeastern US and until reading this post I'd never, ever heard it referred to as 'rig-marole' even once in my entire life. Why would anyone pronounce it like that? It's cumbersome and unnatural to do nearly a full stop between the hard 'g' and the 'm' consonant sounds without inserting a vowel sound.

UDS
11-18-2015, 01:31 AM
I too live the Northeastern US and until reading this post I'd never, ever heard it referred to as 'rig-marole' even once in my entire life. Why would anyone pronounce it like that? It's cumbersome and unnatural to do nearly a full stop between the hard 'g' and the 'm' consonant sounds without inserting a vowel sound.
It's spelled and pronounced that way because, apparently, it's derived from ragman roll, a parlour game popular in the fourteenth century. A number of verses or mottoes of a personal character were written on separate sheets of paper, each with a string or cord attached. The sheets were then rolled up with the strings dangling out of one end. Each player took one of the strings, extracted the sheet of paper which was attached and then read the verse or motto aloud. Whatever he read was taken to apply to him.

I know, it sounds hilarious. But I suppose it helped to pass the time until you were carried off by the black death.

Strictly speaking, the game was "ragman", and the "ragman roll" was the bunch of rolled up papers with the strings hanging out. By the sixteenth century "ragman roll" came to mean any long or rambling discourse, especially a convoluted and improbable excuse or explanation. By the eighteenth century "ragman roll" had become "rigmarole". In the nineteenth century the meaning expanded from long rambling discourse to include long, involved and tedious procedures and processes.

The "rigamarole" spelling and pronunciation is, I think, an exclusively US variant, and I had never heard it in Ireland, the UK or Australia, or been aware of it until this thread. I hypothesised back in 2009 that it was coined to create a trade-markable word to use as the name of a board game. Another possibility is that it simply evolved in the US as an easier-to-articulate variant, and was then adopted as the name of the board game.

BigT
11-18-2015, 01:42 AM
I too live the Northeastern US and until reading this post I'd never, ever heard it referred to as 'rig-marole' even once in my entire life. Why would anyone pronounce it like that? It's cumbersome and unnatural to do nearly a full stop between the hard 'g' and the 'm' consonant sounds without inserting a vowel sound.

There's nothing unnatural about it. There's a clear syllable break. It's no harder than saying "big man."

Still, I nearly always hear and see "rigamarole," too. I assumed people leaving out the a were just doing the same type of elision as done in chocolate.

Wendell Wagner
11-18-2015, 05:09 AM
As I said six years ago, this is a common sort of pronunciation change. It's epenthesis (or more specifically anaptyxis). A sound is added to a word to make it easier to pronounce:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epenthesis

https://twitter.com/bryanagarner/status/263336908199981056

http://michiganradio.org/post/silly-little-syllables-keep-lol-haplology#stream/0

gigi
11-18-2015, 04:51 PM
New England/New York area checking in. Not that it's a word often heard, but the rigamarole pronunciation is what I am used to. It's particularly apparent when I spell it; I tend to add the extra 'a' and then have to look it up.

I too live the Northeastern US and until reading this post I'd never, ever heard it referred to as 'rig-marole' even once in my entire life. Why would anyone pronounce it like that? It's cumbersome and unnatural to do nearly a full stop between the hard 'g' and the 'm' consonant sounds without inserting a vowel sound.

This and this. I read the OP and thought, well, since rigmarole isn't even a word, the answer is rigamarole. :smack:

Hari Seldon
11-19-2015, 09:15 PM
I too live the Northeastern US and until reading this post I'd never, ever heard it referred to as 'rig-marole' even once in my entire life. Why would anyone pronounce it like that? It's cumbersome and unnatural to do nearly a full stop between the hard 'g' and the 'm' consonant sounds without inserting a vowel sound.

I agree, I never heard anything but "rigamarole", but if the older spelling was the original, your post is a perfect explanation of why it changed. I grew up in Philadelphia FWIW.

UDS
11-19-2015, 09:51 PM
Evidently rigmarole is only "cumbersome and unnatural" in the variety of English spoken in the US, and perhaps particularly the north-eastern US, since posters from there not only use rigamarole but say they have never heard the other usage. In most of the rest of the Anglophone world, however, it's rigmarole which is standard, and rigamarole which either sounds contrived or is simply never heard.

Which raise the question; what is the particular characteristic of English as spoken in [north-eastern] US which makes rigmarole awkward?

An Gadaí
11-20-2015, 10:50 AM
I always heard it as rigmarole. I only heard rigamarole for the first time in an episode of Rick & Morty.

Hail Ants
11-21-2015, 01:37 PM
I should have probably clarified that it's only 'cumbersome and unnatural' to try and say rig-marole when you've only ever heard it pronounced rig-a-marole. It's sort of like a mild tongue-twister, my brain simply insists on inserting that 'a' sound every time. Even when I concentrate and do say 'rig-marole' I'm still hearing the middle 'a' in my head when I do!

BigT
11-22-2015, 12:12 AM
Evidently rigmarole is only "cumbersome and unnatural" in the variety of English spoken in the US, and perhaps particularly the north-eastern US, since posters from there not only use rigamarole but say they have never heard the other usage. In most of the rest of the Anglophone world, however, it's rigmarole which is standard, and rigamarole which either sounds contrived or is simply never heard.

Which raise the question; what is the particular characteristic of English as spoken in [north-eastern] US which makes rigmarole awkward?

My guess is that the /g/ sound is just harder, and thus the release started sounding a bit like a schwa, and that this was gradually exaggerated. Though I also wouldn't be surprised if it had to do with immigrants with languages that don't allow such a combination. An obvious example would be Italians, for whom even "big man" which I mentioned earlier would have come out "big-a-man."

kaylasdad99
11-22-2015, 12:27 AM
There is nothing cumbersome at all about the as-spelled pronunciation of "rigmarole;" any more than there is with "nuclear," or "comfortable."

TheJollyGreenTurtle
01-09-2017, 11:19 PM
There is nothing cumbersome at all about the as-spelled pronunciation of "rigmarole;" any more than there is with "nuclear," or "comfortable."

I can't help but bring this thread back to life... my spell-checker didn't like "rigamarole", so I had to find out what I was doing wrong. Like many others here, I have only heard "rigamarole" and not once have I heard the word "rigmarole". I was raised in Ohio. I've been in California for a long time and had a co-worker that often said "rigamarole"; however, he was from Chicago. So... there you have it. Seems to be a regional thing.

Anyways, I can't help but notice that kaylasdad99's argument for "rigmarole" seems to be a better argument for "rigamarole". It seems to me that "comfortable" is closer to "rigamarole" than it is to "rigmarole"; and, with that in mind, leaving the 'A' out of "comfortable" (comfort-ble) is how awkward and cumbersome it is for us rigamarolers to leave the 'A' out of "rigamarole" (rig-marole). Interesting and entertaining for sure.

Thanks,
~Eric

panache45
01-10-2017, 03:35 AM
So do you also say "stig-a-ma" and "mag-a-ma"?

Anyways...

And while we're at it... it's "anyway".

PatrickLondon
01-10-2017, 07:00 AM
I suggest you avoid the confusion, and use "boondoggle" instead.

:)

Or "palaver". Or "faff", "fantigue", "grand opera", "going round the houses, "making a production" or many another......

JKellyMap
01-10-2017, 07:31 AM
So do you also say "stig-a-ma" and "mag-a-ma"?



And while we're at it... it's "anyway".

The difference is the "r" that follows in "rigmarole." To go right from a "g" sound to an "m" sound, the mouth (tongue and lips) has to make a mildly difficult movement. "R" in most varieties from of English is often pronounced not as a separate letter, but rather starts out as part of the preceding sound. That is, the mouth is already positioned for the "r" -- back of the tongue pressed against the sides of the lower molars -- while the previous sound is being pronounced (in this case, the "m").

That's what makes "rigmarole" slightly more prone to epithensis than, say, "stigma."

JKellyMap
01-10-2017, 07:38 AM
Also, this might explain why (some) Americans insert the extra "a" more often than (some) non-Americans. I believe that many non-Americans more fully pronounce the "a" in, say, "-marole." That is, they don't start to form the "r" as early as Americans do. So, the "r" mouth position doesn't interfere with the previous "-gm-" sequence as much as it does for many Americans.

JKellyMap
01-10-2017, 07:59 AM
In other words, there needs to be a vowel SOMEWHERE in the -gmr- sequence -- it's just a question of where to put it.

Chief Pedant
01-10-2017, 10:13 AM
The polloi will always defeat the pedants over the long run when standard usage is in transition.
Rigamarole will win this one, and eventually the standard-bearers will have to cave. :mad:

It's easier to give the word a little oomph with "rigamarole" and that oomph fits with the thrust of what you are trying to convey.

"Stigma" is safe (although "stigmata" is probably a lost cause :) ).
It's a teeny word that likes to be tightly pronounced to help convey it...

Gary T
01-10-2017, 10:18 AM
It seems to me that "comfortable" is closer to "rigamarole" than it is to "rigmarole"; and, with that in mind, leaving the 'A' out of "comfortable" (comfort-ble) is how awkward and cumbersome it is for us rigamarolers to leave the 'A' out of "rigamarole" (rig-marole).I'm sorry, but you've totally misunderstood why "comfortable" was included as an example. No one leaves the a out of comfortable, or even thinks about it. It's the or that gets left out, making it the three syllable word "comftable." Often the "r" sound is incorporated into the second syllable, making the pronunciation "comfterble."

The point is that it's human nature to drop a syllable to shorten pronunciation in many cases, but also to insert a syllable to enhance the "roll off the tongue" effect in other cases (see post #9).

markn+
01-10-2017, 10:36 AM
No one leaves the a out of comfortable, or even thinks about it. It's the or that gets left out, making it the three syllable word "comftable."

Since the second vowel is a schwa, it's not clear which phonemes are being removed in the "comftable" pronunciation. But I frequently hear "or" in the shorter pronunciation: "comftorble", indicating to me that the "a" is being elided. If yours is a non-rhotic dialect, that may account for the difference in your experience. "comftable" sounds somewhat strange to me.

Atamasama
01-10-2017, 10:38 AM
Grew up in the Pacific Northwest. Never seen or heard "rigmarole" in my whole life, as a fairly well-read man hitting 40. I think "rigamarole" is the standard American usage of this word. Like "aluminum" versus "aluminium".

markn+
01-10-2017, 10:41 AM
"Rigamarole" does seem to be mainly a US usage. In the Global Corpus of Online English, "rigmarole" is seen 43 times in the US and 111 times in Great Britain, while "rigamarole" is seen 28 times in the US and 6 times in Great Britain. Nevertheless, "rigmarole" is more common than "rigamarole" in both countries (by 1.5x in the US and 18x in GB). The word in either form seems to be much more common in GB than the US.

krondys
01-10-2017, 12:41 PM
Flyover country reporting in, and it is rig-a-marole here as well.

I just avoid confusion and use "clusterfuck".

panache45
01-10-2017, 01:19 PM
In other words, there needs to be a vowel SOMEWHERE in the -gmr- sequence -- it's just a question of where to put it.
There already is one... between the m and r.

DrCube
01-10-2017, 01:42 PM
Midwesterner here, never once in my life have I heard or read "rig-marole". It's always been "rigamarole" and Firefox even tells me I spelled it right, so there.

kayaker
01-10-2017, 01:52 PM
Flyover country reporting in, and it is rig-a-marole here as well.

Western Pennsylvania here. Just surveyed five people here and they all say rig-a-ma-role, spell the word rigamarole, and believe "rigmarole" is misspelled.

Exapno Mapcase
01-10-2017, 02:31 PM
Upstate New Yorker. Never heard any usage other than rigamarole. Didn't even know there was an alternative or a controversy.

Merriam-Webster (https://merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rigmarole) says:
In the mid-19th century rigmarole (also spelled rigamarole, reflecting its common pronunciation) acquired its most recent sense, "a complex and ritualistic procedure."

Ludovic
01-10-2017, 02:49 PM
Up until about a year ago, on this message board, I also hadn't even heard of the spelling or pronunciation "Rigmarole". Upstate NY and Florida. Although it's a word that only comes up a few times a year anyway.

JKellyMap
01-10-2017, 05:15 PM
There already is one... between the m and r.

Right, but Americans, especially, start to make the mouth shape for the "r" early...which in an unstressed syllable (where the vowel is pronounced as a schwa, at most), means during the previous consonant.

Take the word "bird." You make the "r" mouth shape at the same time you pronounce the "b"! Check it out. Start to say "bird," but then stop yourself -- indeed, you're making the "r" position (tongue against back molars) even before you sound the "b."

psychonaut
01-10-2017, 06:08 PM
The OED has rigmarole going back to 1736, and no entry at all for rigamarole.

My copy of the OED only lists "rigmarole" as the spelling

I guess you guys didn't search the other entries. My copy does contain one "rigamarole" in a quotation for another entry (kragdadig):

1949 Cape Times 21 Sept. 8 Where any evidence can be found in this rigamarole of tentativeness for the kragdadigheid which is supposed to distinguish Nationalist Ministers we fail to see.

So it seems that yes, "rigamarole" is an attested spelling going back as far as 1949.

John Mace
01-10-2017, 08:36 PM
There was too much rigamarole involved when the athalete and the orangutang were eating sherbert.
... while being driven around by their Realator.

Wendell Wagner
01-10-2017, 08:43 PM
Search the other entries? Um, I have a paper and ink copy of the OED. We used to call such things "books". Are you suggesting I quit my job and spend the next few years looking for that spelling?

psychonaut
01-11-2017, 03:12 AM
Search the other entries? Um, I have a paper and ink copy of the OED. We used to call such things "books". Are you suggesting I quit my job and spend the next few years looking for that spelling?What do you think I've been doing for the 8 years since your original post? ;)

kayaker
01-11-2017, 06:56 AM
Are you suggesting I quit my job and spend the next few years looking for that spelling?

Many are called but few are chosen.

The Great Unwashed
01-11-2017, 08:51 AM
Surely this is just a matter of edumacation?

Atamasama
01-11-2017, 02:23 PM
Rigamarole is a perfectly cromulent word.

UDS
01-11-2017, 07:51 PM
Rigamarole is a perfectly cromulent word.
I think you mean "caromulent".

John DiFool
01-11-2017, 07:57 PM
Rigatoni.

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