Would you notice a man wearing a white shirt? I can hear your resounding NO, sitting in Kilpauk. Now would you notice the same man if he wore a white shirt, white pants, white cap, white shoes, white gloves, white watch and white goggles? You would spot him from a mile, right? That’s the power of repetition. It can make sameness, stand apart.
Tautonyms (or ditto names, as I call them) use the same principle to incredible effect by repeating syllables twice. ‘Tata’ is perhaps, the best example. It’s a behemoth of a conglomerate and yet, the name is approachable, full of warmth and evokes instant affection. A teensy bit of the credit should go to the duplicative sound arrangement of the name.
Child-friendliness is one more reason for the adorability. Names like ZooZoo (the Vodafone creature with balloon body and egg head) and Tintin (the amiable Belgian comic character) roll off the tongue, very easily for kids, as they are very similar in structure to baby words like ‘Papa’, ‘Mama’, ‘Nana’, ‘Didi’, ‘Thatha’, ‘Dada’, ‘Kaka’, ‘Chacha’ and ‘Dhudhu’.
The juvenile innocence of Tun Tun brings a smile to your face even before you see the fat lady emoting. The nickname Chi Chi makes Govinda more endearing than he could ever imagine. Lady Gaga blasts away the icy visage of Stefani Joane Angeline Germanotta. Tuktuk morphs the rickety motor vehicle into a plump cutesy boy. Bulbul creates a lively little girl aura around the nightingale. Twenty-Twenty feels far lighter and unboring compared to the uptight Test Match.
The winsome nature of repetition is further attested by the formidable success of chartbusters such as ‘Mehbooba Mehbooba’, ‘Dhak Dhak’, ‘Chaiya Chaiya’, ‘Hamma Hamma’, ‘Kandukondein Kandukondein‘, ‘Yathey Yathey’, and ‘Waka Waka’.
I suspect that our ancestors might have known about the power of reduplication much earlier. May be that’s why they injected the chants ‘Shiva Shiva’, ‘Govinda Govinda’ and ‘Ram Ram’ into the pedestrian parlance.
Zsa Zsa Gabor and Moon Moon Sen are among the celebrities who’ve mikled this strategy. Bisou Bisou and Miu Miu are some fashionable brands that have followed suit. So I guess it helps to be of the same mould.