Sent to you by tony via Google Reader:
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 06, 2009 is:
higgledy-piggledy \hig-ul-dee-PIG-ul-dee\ adverb
: in a confused, disordered, or random manner
Maya and Sandra looked in disbelief at the hundreds of photos of their father and mother scattered higgledy-piggledy across the floor, wondering how they were ever going to find the ideal ones for a photo collage.
Did you know?
We really have no idea where "higgledy-piggledy" came from, but we do know it's a perfect example of English speakers' fondness for reduplication; that is, for forming new words by repetition of a base word with just a slight change of sound. In this case, the "base" word might actually be the second term, which is loosely reminiscent of "pig" and calls to mind the possible association of pigs with disorderliness. (Nathaniel Hawthorne, at least, noted a connection: "pigs, on a march, do not subject themselves to any leader among themselves, but pass on, higgledy-piggledy, without regard to age or sex.") We also know that the word has been around since before 1600; it appeared as a translation of an Italian word in a 1598 Italian-English dictionary. According to that dictionary, the Italian term could also be translated as "pell-mell" or "helter-skelter" -- two other examples of reduplication.