I've heard this used in speech, not written language, and specifically in South Asian languages like Bengali/Hindi/Urdu (or in English by South Asian people who know English as a second language).

Examples in English include "jacket facket" or "watch totch" or "piano fiano". I think the replacement consonants are usually f-, t-, or sh-, although this is purely observational.

up vote 8 down vote accepted

This is called "echo reduplication", for example Hindi jānā-vānā "going etc.", ālū-vālū "potato etc." or in Tamil tummi kimmi "sneezing etc". More generally (outside Indian linguistics) in the theoretical literature it is known as reduplication with fixed segmentalism.

There is also the shm- reduplicating prefix in American East-Coast English, originally from Yiddish. A good general designation would be "rhyme formations" or "echo words".

  • 2
    It's a form of reduplication, which may or may not have the initial consonant cluster specified (as it is in Yiddish shm-reduplication). – jlawler Sep 11 at 21:00

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