For Chronic Reduplicators, Things Aren’t Hunky-Dory

GREEN VALLEY, Arizona.  It is a typically beautiful day in this south central Arizona town–blue skies and not a cloud in sight.  Still, Maribeth Grealey draws the blinds to darken the living room in which her husband Jim, unemployed for nearly six months, sits quietly on the sofa waiting for an interview with this reporter.  “I don’t want him to get overstimulated,” she says quietly.  “It can set off one of his spells.”

Green Valley, Arizona


Jim is a victim of CRS, or Chronic Reduplication Syndrome, a disability whose victims pepper their speech with reduplications, the repetition of a word root to form expressive combinations such as “roly-poly.”

“He’s back here, in the den.”


“Everything was hunky-dory at my last job,” Jim says of MediPet, a maker of veterinary supplies such as narrow tongue depressors used to give throat exams to kitty-cats.  “Then my manager quit and they hired this real fuddy-duddy.  He gave me the heebie-jeebies.”

Grealey:  “I don’t get along with hoity-toity people.”


Chronic reduplicators are often viewed as flippant or unserious by those who do not understand the nature of their handicap, according to National Disability Law Center staff attorney Will Young.  “If employers would give reduplicators a teensy-weensy chance, they can prove themselves in just about any occupation other than public address announcer,” he claims.

“. . . and so they singled you out, willy-nilly, and fired you?”


But business groups say reduplication hurts productivity in many jobs, and can be dangerous in others.  “An air traffic controller who tells a pilot ‘You’re doing okey-dokey, just make an itsy-bitsy turn to your right, not too herky-jerky’ puts a stewardess at risk of spilling complimentary bags of peanuts helter-skelter all over the place,” says Walter Reeves, executive director of the National Chamber of Commerce.  “I know all the politically correct goody-goody types will jump on me for saying that, but it’s true.”

Quinlan:  “I don’t shilly-shally around on this issue.”


Occupational psychologist Vera Quinlan say there is a fifty-fifty chance a reduplicator will be disciplined, demoted or fired within the first year on a job, but Reeves pooh-poohs that figure.  “That’s a bunch of clap-trap,” he says.  “The number of fired reduplicators is teeny-tiny.”

But disputes over workplace statistics don’t help Grealey, who says all he wants is a chance to become a productive member of society.  “I just need someone to do me an itsy-bitsy favor,” he says, his voice cracking with emotion.  “I don’t want to get all palsy-walsy with them.”

Available in Kindle format as part of the collection “I Hear America Whining.”


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