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I’ll have an assonant hendiadys to go, please -- and hold the mayo!

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Click Here!

Ass on henry's what?!
Lewis's categories
Category 1 -- both meaningful words
Category 2 -- one meaningful word
Category 3 -- both meaningless words
Category 4 -- according to word order
Category 5 -- arising from numbers
Category 6 -- arising from repeated words
Category 7 -- according to syllable harmony
Category 8 -- according to vowel harmony
Category 9 -- according to 'b' and 'p'
Category 10 -- m-doublets
m-doublet surprise!

Overhead at the
'Blind Leading the Blind' Institute --
south-side cafeteria...

I thought they weren’t going to use any of that
technical jargon on us, Marvin.
That was indeed the promise, Mabel.
Then what’re those 50-cent words doing up there in the sub-title?
It would seem that a woman’s word is no longer her bond.
And just when I was gettin’ the hang of the lingo too.
Why…I’ve been greeting everyone I know with a hearty thump on the back and a cheerful ‘
Mahoopla’ for weeks now.
I think that's supposed to be "Merhambone" when you say hello to someone in Turkish, Mabel.
Mebbee that explains the funny looks I’ve been gettin’…

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Have you noticed the gentle rhyming you hear when
two Turks really get going in a conversation?
How they use double (sometimes triple, even quadruple) word combinations --
that enliven the sound of their speech?
(But which leave us English-speaking listeners befuddled?)

Or, have you noticed all the
double (sometimes triple, even quadruple) word combinations that
you find when you scan a Turkish to English dictionary?
Each with its own special meaning?

Well, our old friend G.L. Lewis, makes the observation that these assonant hendiadyses (G.L. calls them assonant doublets)
fall into three categories in Turkish...

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But before we get into any talk about categories...

Assonant Hendiadys? Whaa?

An assonant hendiadys is a single idea that is (usually) expressed by
a pair of words (instead of one word and a qualifier).
The two words may be joined by a conjunction -- and there’s often
a discernable repetition of sounds within them…
Such a hendiadys is used to add ‘dramatic effect’ to one’s language.

Examples in English and a few other languages...





"I will greatly multiply your pain and childbirth"

(Genesis 3:16)

Instead of "painful childbirth."



"the blood and baseness of our natures would conduct us to most preposterous conclusions"

(Othello 1.03.328)

Instead of ‘bloody baseness’


"Waving to him white hands and courtesy"
Yes, that’s right… Sometimes it takes more than two words (and a conjunction) to make a healthy hendiadys.

Instead of "courteous white hands’.


He struck with steel and sword…

(Reader’s Digest Encyclopedia)

Instead of ‘a steel sword


It sure is nice and warm in Gümüldür today!

(Marvin 7.23.99)

Instead of "pleasantly warm."


Par la haine et par la jalousie.

(By hatred and jealousy)

Instead of: "Par une haine jalouse."

(By jealous hatred)


Für König und Vaterland

(For the King and Fatherland)

Instead of "Royal Fatherland."


Metus et timor

(Fear and trepidation)

Instead of "Fearful trepidation."


Perfecti oratoris moderatione et sapientia.

(moderation and wisdom)

Instead of "moderated wisdom."


Nga rgyal khengs Dregs

(arrogance, haughtiness)

Yes, that’s right…
Sometimes there’s no conjunction in a healthy hendiadys.

Instead of "arrogant haughtiness."


Snga 'gras da 'khon

(former ill-will, recent spite)

Yes, that’s right...
Sometimes it takes more than two words (and no conjunction) to make a healthy hendiadys.

Instead of "longstanding spiteful ill will."

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Now where we were…?
Lewis was about to enlighten us again, wasn't he...

Lewis's Categories of Assonant Doublets

Category 1) Where both words in the doublet have a normal meaning, independent of the doublet -- like, kör; blind and topal; lame, which, when they meet in a doublet, mean after a fashion.

Isler bildigin gibi, biz de kör topal idare edip gidiyoruz iste…
You know… business is so so, and we’re getting along, in a half-assed way…

Category 2) Where one or the other word in the doublet doesn’t have any independent meaning -- like, sIkI (which means close) and fIkI (which has no independent meaning). Taken together, they mean intimate.

Daha dün sIkI fIkIydIlar; bugün bozusmuslar. Until very recently they were quite intimate; but today I heard they’re breaking up.

Category 3) Where neither word has independent meaning, like mirin and kirin -- which, when paired side by side, mean hemming and hawing and making feeble objections.

MIrIn kIrIn edip durma, canImI sIkIyorsun!
Stop that hemming and hawing, you’re annoying the hell out of me!

And, as usual, Lewis is right on the money about these three categories.

Still, when you stop and think about it...
these doublets can be categorized in more ways than that in Turkish...

Doublet Categories galore...

Why don’t we have a look at some of these ‘other’ categories -- and, at the same time, learn some new and uniquely interesting Turkish vocabulary…

By the way, if you feel that these
doublets qualify as idioms,
then join the crowd -- ‘cause we do too.
And whenever we find one,
we dutifully add it to our full-sized
Turkish Idioms Dictionary for English Speakers --
a sampling of which may be found on our page called
The Plain English Meaning of Turkish Idioms…

"Things consisting of two…"

A convenient Turkish term for two-word phrases like these is ikilemeler (coined by Mehmet Hengirmen) -- which translates roughly as ‘things consisting of two’. And the naturally poetic Turk reckons that they add beauty, drama, and efficacy to his and her every day speech.

In languages like English, German, and French, such doublet ‘phrases’ are usually reserved for stage, screen, and radio entertainments. Ah mean, you don’t find too many Londoners using assonant hendiadyses
down th' pub, now do ye' mate...

But Turks use ikilemeler all the time --
and they’ve been doing it for centuries.

The oldest known examples of written Turkish are on the Orhun obelisks dating from the late 7th Century – and, you guessed it, even there you find the use of ikilemeler. So historically, Turkish has been predisposed to poetry, harmony and dramatic expression -- for quite a long while.

Category 4 -- ikilemeler according to word order

The sequence of words in an ikilemeler (usually) follows rather logical rules – which may be summarized as follows:

1) words with the least number of syllables come first…

The ikilemeler

Literal Meaning

Plain English Meaning

Example usage and English translation

çekip çevirmek

to pull and turn

to run (manage) a place or business

Bu magazayI çekip çevirecek senin gibi birine gerçekten ihtiyacImIz vardI.

We really needed someone like you to manage this store.

Küçücük kIz kocaman evi çekip çeviriyor.

That tiny girl manages a whole big house [by herself].

dal budak (salmak)

branch knot

  • (for a tree) to develop branches
  • to grow
  • to become established
  • to become widespread

AdamIn ünü o yörede dal budak salmIs.

The fame of that fellow is spreading around these parts.

kol kanat (olmak/germek)

(to be) arm wing

to take someone under protective care, under one’s ‘wing’

Sag olun, kötü günümde kol kanat oldunuz bana.

Is this an example of devrik cümle?
You betcha!

Thanks, you took me under your wing during my bad times.

kör kütük

blind, tree trunk

dead blind drunk

Kör kütük sarhos adamla çocuklar alay ettiler.

The kids teased the man who was blind drunk.

kör topal

blind lame

  • after a fashion
  • in a half-assed way

Evliligimiz fena degil; kör topal; yürütüyoruz.

Our marriage is not bad; we’re carrying on after a fashion.

2) Words starting with a vowel come first:

The ikilemeler

Literal Meaning

Plain English Meaning

Example usage and English translation

Ik saçIk

saçIk’ has no meaning independent of this two-word phrase, see Lewis’s Category 2 above)

open --

  • being something too liberal (as to language or anatomy). Off-color, risqué, bawdy.
  • being something rude, indecent, immodest (as with clothing).
  • being something that is found disgraceful by everyone.

O sinemada açIk saçIk filmler gösterilirdi.

They used to show soft-porn films at that cinema house.

abuk sabuk (konusmak)

(abuk has no independent meaning and sabuk’s independent meaning is questionable. So abuk sabuk may fall either into Lewis’s Category 2 or Category 3, see above.)

(to talk) …

(to talk) nonsensically

Böyle abuk sabuk konusmayI bIrak da, beni iyi dinle.

Stop talking nonsensically, and listen well to what I say.

abur cubur

(Neither word has meaning except in this phrase -- see Lewis’s Category 3.)

  • food eaten in casual snacks.
  • haphazard, confused speech.
  • ordinary, common-place (person).


Abur cubur seylerle karIn doyurmak dogru degildir.

It's not right to fill up your stomach with junk food.

Ik seçik

open clear.

  • definitely, clearly.
  • definite, clear.
  • quite/very clear.

YazInIn açIk seçik bir anlatImI var.

The meaning of the article is very clear.

allak bullak

(Neither word has meaning except in this phrase -- see Lewis’s Category 3.)

… …

Confused, topsy turvy

(Is topsy turvy an example of a commonly used Category 3 English-language ikilemeler? Then what about... mumbo jumbo [Category 3], hill and dale [Category 1], pots and pans [Category 1], and foot loose and fancy free [Category 1]? )

Çocuklar evin içini allak bullak etmisler.

The children turned the house upside down!

apar topar

(Neither word has meaning except in this phrase -- see Lewis’s Category 3.)

… …

headlong, in a panic, stampeding

Sabahleyin uyanamadIm; apar topar evden çIktIm.

I didn’t wake up on time this morning, I left the house in a stampede.

az buz (olmamak)

(not to be) small ice

to be of no small matter.

Az buz degil, bilmem kaç milyonmus alacagI.

That’s no minor deal, I don’t know just how many millions he’ll get (out of it).

el ayak

Note: Since both words start with a vowel, the one with the least syllables comes first...

hand foot

el ayak has many situational meanings.

El ayak çekilince bekçi düdügü duyuldu.

When no one’s around, the watchman's whistle is heard.

eli ayagI baglI.

not free to act as you want, having your hands tied.

eli ayagI buz kesilmek.

to be very cold.

er geç

early late

  • one of these days
  • sooner or later

Er geç bir ev alacagIm.

One of these days I’ll buy a house.

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Category 5 -- ikilemeler arising in numbers

Hengirmen points out that ordinary numbers are sometimes used in pairs in Turkish -- to serve as ikilemeler. So, depending on the context of the sentence, these 'numerical ikilemeler' can have a different meaning than what appears on their numerical ‘surfaces’. In those cases, as might be expected, the words indicating smaller numbers (quantitatively speaking) come before words indicating larger ones. So, numerical ikilemeler aren’t ‘bound’ by any of the previously stated word-order ‘rules’...

The numerical ikilemeler

Literal Meaning

Plain English Meaning

Example usage and English translation

bes on

five ten

some, few in number

Manzara hakikaten güzel ve dokunaklIydI, bes on dakika bir sanat eseri gibi seyrettim.
(A.H. TanpInar)

The scene was really beautiful and moving, I viewed it like a work of art for a few minutes.

bir iki

one two

a very few, an imperceptible number or amount

KitaplarI, bir iki bavulu, o kadar…
(N.F. KIsakürek)

Books, a very few pieces of luggage, that’s all…

üç asagI bes yukarI (also, bes asagI bes yukarI)

three down five up
(five down five up)

about, a small difference, after some bargaining, approximately

Üç asagI bes yukarI anlastik sayIlIr.
(S.F. AbasIyanIk)

After some bargaining, we agreed.

üç bes

three five

a few, a rather small number or portion

Ben Heybeli’den vazgeçerim simdilik, ancak, üç bes gün için pek hos olur Remle’de kalmak.
(M.A. Ersoy)

For now I’ll abandon Heybeli (famous island near Istanbul), but it will be quite pleasant to spend a few days in Remle.

üçe bese (bakmamak)

(not to look) to three to five

not to be fussy in a bargain

Lütfen, benim satIs fiatlarIndaki üçe bese bakmayIn. Yoksa terk edecegim.

Please don’t be fussy about my selling price. Otherwise, I’m leaving.

üçer beser

three at a time five at a time

in small groups; small in number, in small portion

Her iki odadan üçer beser kisi lakIrdIyI uzattIlar.
(M. S. Esendal)

From both rooms people in small groups offered up a bunch of empty comments.

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Category 6 -- Arising from repeated words

Expression is strengthened in ikilemeler consisting of repeated words.

The ikilemeler

Literal Meaning

Plain English Meaning

Example usage and English translation

aptalIn aptalI

the stupid of stupid

dumber than dumb

AptalIn aptalI Temel...

The very most stupid Temel…

Who's Temel, anyway?

beterin beteri

the worse of worse

the very worst

Beterin beteri terörist …

The very worst terrorist…

bilginler bilgini

the scholar of scholars

the very most scholarly

Bilginler bilgini Einstein…

The very most scholarly Einstein…

kahramanlar kahramanI

the hero of heroes

the very most heroic

Kahramanlar kahramanI Superman…

The very most heroic Superman…

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Category 7 -- According to 'Syllable' Harmony

Sound carries a lot of weight in an ikilemeler. As shown in the Category 6 Chart, a rhythmic harmony is produced by repeating the same word. Rhythmic harmony also occurs when you use similar sounding words to form the ikilemeler -- especially in the sounds of the first or of the last syllables of each word.

First Syllable Harmony
Consonants found at the beginning of words in ikilemeler provide similarity in the front sound -- and produce harmony.

The ikilemeler

Literal Meaning

Plain English Meaning

Example usage and English translation

soylu soplu

with lineage with clan

someone from a well-known, well-established family

Tessie soylu soplu bir gençle evlendi.

Our Tessie married a bloke from the ‘upper crust’.

Tessie soysuz sopsuzun teki.

Tessie is a girl with an unimpressive background.

cümbür cemaat

('cümbür' is meaningless except in this phrase, see Lewis’s Category 2 above...)

… congregation

the whole kit and caboodle

Cümbür cemaat komsuya oturmaya gittik.

The whole kit and caboodle of us went to sit at the neighbor’s place.

kul kurban [köle] (olmak)

(to be) slave sacrifice

(to be) greatly devoted (to)

Sevdigi kisiye kul kurban olmus; sonunda mutlu bir yuva kurmuslar.

He became devoted to the person he loved, and they finally established a happy home.

yalan yanlIs

lie mistake

very inaccurate/ full of mistakes, even fabrications

Yalan yanlIs haberlerle herkesin aklInI karIstIrdI.

She confused everyone with her inaccurate news.

zar zor

membrane difficulty

  1. unwillingly, reluctantly
  2. with extremely difficulty
  3. by force

KIzIma ödevini zar zor yaptIrabildim.

I was barely able to make my daughter do her homework.


Last Syllable Harmony
This type of harmony comes from a similarity of vowel sounds or of consonant sounds in final syllables of ikilemeler.

The ikilemeler

Literal Meaning

Plain English Meaning

Example usage and English translation

ecis bücüs

(Neither word has meaning except in this phrase -- see Lewis’s Category 3.)


out of shape, crooked, distorted, ruined, ugly

Ecis bücüs mobilyalar salonu çirkinlestirmis.

The ugly furniture makes the whole living room ugly.

süklüm püklüm

(Neither word has meaning except in this phrase -- see Lewis’s Category 3.)


a downcast or hangdog manner, looking guilty

CamI kIran çocuk süklüm püklüm müdürün huzuruna çIktI.

The boy who broke the window glass presented himself to the principal in a hangdog manner.

ayrIsI gayrIsI (olmamak, bilmemek)

(to not be, to not know) separate other

to be close friends, to be family, to have all things in common

Amcamlarla bizim ayrImIz gayrImIz yoktur.

We are very close with my uncles.

hesap kitap

account book

  1. after careful consideration
  2. after full consideration
  3. a financial book account/work

Hesap kitap bu isin yapIlmasInIn bir yararI olmadIgI ortaya çIktI.

After careful investigation, it seems that their was no benefit from doing this job.

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Category 8 -- Vowel harmony between words in ikilemeler

Back Vowel Harmony
You (usually) find vowel harmony between words in an ikilemeler. So, if one of the 'back vowels' (a, I, o, u) is used in the first syllable of the first word, then one of the 'back vowels' will be used similarly in the second word.

'Back vowel' ikilemeler

The ikilemeler

Literal Meaning

Plain English Meaning

Example usage and English translation

saç saça (bas basa)

hair to hair (head to head)

to begin to fight with each other, to rough up each other in a fight

iki kadIn, filmde saç saça bas basa dövüstüler.

The two women in the film got into a helluva fight.

havadan sudan

from air from water

at random, of this and that

Havadan sudan konustuk; vakit geçti.

We talked about this and that, and the time passed.

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'Back vowel' ikilemeler exceptions

Some ikilemeler don’t follow this 'back vowel' rhyme-rule...

The ikilemeler

Literal Meaning

Plain English Meaning

Example usage and English translation

yol yordam
(yol yöntem)

road method

the right way to do (something)

Böyle yolsuz, yordamsIz uygulamalarla egitsel kol çalIsmalarI yürütülemez.

The educational branches can’t perform their function with those screwed up applications.

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Front Vowel Harmony
If there's a front vowel (e, i, ö, ü) in the first syllable of the first word of the ikilemeler, then the second word follows suit (usually)...

'Front vowel' ikilemeler

The ikilemeler

Literal Meaning

Plain English Meaning

Example usage and English translation

delik desik

hole hole

full of holes

Ceketi delik desikti; giyilecek gibi degildi.

The jacket was full of holes; it was not wearable.

egilip bükülmek

to be bent and to be twisted

  1. to fidget, squirm
  2. to fawn

KarsImda egilip bükülerek bir seyler anlatmak istiyordu.

He was sitting across from me wanting to explain things -- and squirming all the while...

  1. senet sepet
  2. senetsiz sepetsiz
  • documentary proof basket
  • lack of documentary proof basket
  1. written proof of a business transaction; an IOU; a bond
  2. (something) which has no written certification whatsoever

ArsayI alInca senet sepet yaptInIz mI?

Did you make a written proof when you bought the land?

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But some 'front vowel' ikilemeler don’t follow this rhyme ‘rule’...

'Front vowel' ikilemeler exceptions...

The ikilemeler

Literal Meaning

Plain English Meaning

Example usage and English translation

üstü basI (dökülmek)

(to spill) top head

for one’s clothes to be in tatters

Çocugun üstü basI dökülüyordu, içeri aldI, giydirdi, doyurdu.

The kid’s clothes were in tatters; she took him in, she dressed him (in something else), and stuffed him (with food).

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Category 9 -- Words beginning with b or p in ikilemeler

A word starting with b or p comes after the first word in an ikilemeler. If both words begin with b or p, the p word comes last...

The ikilemeler

Literal Meaning

Plain English Meaning

Example usage and English translation

bölük pörçük

(pörçük is meaningless except in the phrase, see Lewis’s Category 2 above)

group …

in bits, incomplete

Böyle bölük pörçük degil, sunu bütünüyle anlat olmaz mI?

Can’t you explain this completely, instead of in bits.

eski püskü

(püskü is meaningless except in the phrase, see Lewis’s Category 2 above)

old …

rather old, old and battered looking, shabby

ÇocukcagIz eski püskü giysileri içinde tir tir titriyordu.

Our dear child was shivering inside his tattered clothes.

  1. süsleyip püslemek
  2. süslü püslu

püslemek’ [‘püslu’] is meaningless except in these phrases, see Lewis’s category 2 above)

  • to decorate and (no meaning)
  • ornamented, decorated
  1. needless, worthless, excessive adornment, to adorn with great care, to dress in a remarkable, striking manner
  2. elaborately dressed

El ele verip kIzcagIzI süsleyip püsledik.

We joined forces and dolled up our daughter ‘fit to kill’!

el bebek
(gül bebek)

hand baby
(rose baby)

  • to treat someone with great respect and honor
  • coddled, petted, spoiled

Ailenin en küçügü olan bu kIzI el bebek, gül bebek yetistirdiler.

They raised this daughter in a pampered way because she was the youngest in the family.

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Category 10 -- M-doublets

I really like these, Marvin.
Me too, Mabel.
They remind me of the pig-Latin I used to speak as a boy.
Wait a sec...
I didn’t know you were bi-lingual, Marv.
I don't tell everyone.

The purpose of the m-doublet ikilemeler is exactly the same as (and may be used interchangeably with) filan, or falan, or filan falan -- to facilitate the meaning of and similar things or and related things or and so on or and such like or etcetera. And they are usually (but not always) made from nouns.

And remember...
the second 'word' in an M-doublet is not a word at all.
It's just a rhyming sound starting with m,
that serves to mean etcetera, etcetera, etcetera...

M-doublet Vowel Chart
For words beginning with a vowel, an m-doublet is made by adding m...

Word starting with a vowel…

The resulting ‘M-doublet’

The English meaning



adamlar madamlar

men and creatures like them…


(my hand)

elim melim

my hand, its fingers, the bone, and skin, etc.



Irmak mIrmak

streams and such like…


(an English person)

ingiliz mingiliz

English people and people like the English people…



odun modun

firewood and other burnable material…



ödev mödev

homework and the like…


Note that this is not a noun...

ucuz mucuz

cheap, affordable, easy to acquire, etc.


(an iron)

ütü mütü

an iron, ironing board, ironing cloth, etc.

Example sentences:
Araba maraba vIzgelir, yürürüm.
Cars and trucks and such don’t matter to me, I can walk.

Arsanda agaç magaç yok mu?
Aren’t there any trees or bushes or shrubs on your land?

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For words starting with a consonant, drop the consonant before adding the m to form the m-doublet....

M-doublet Consonant Chart

Word starting with a consonant

The resulting M-doublet

The English Meaning



bakan makan

ministers and bureaucrats and such



caddeler maddeler

streets and roads and things like that



çöp möp

trash and waste and such



defter mefter

notebooks and other such writing materials



fikir mikir

ideas and thoughts and such



gazete mazete

newspapers and magazines and such



hikaye mikaye

stories and fables and the like


(razor blade)

jilet milet

razor blades and other sharp things



kaba maba

rudeness and vulgarity and the like



kIz mIz



young girls and teenagers and such



lastik mastik

tires/tyres and other rubber things



Isn’t that the English word that Perihan can’t say, Mabel?
You’d better hope she doesn’t hear you say that, Marvin.

nar mar

pomegranates and similar fruits



para mara

money and other valuables



resim mesim

pictures and other memorabilia



sabIr mabIr

patience, forbearance and the like



saka maka

jokes and other things to laugh at



tabak mabak

plates and dishes and things for eating



vaatlar maatlar

promises and other oaths



yag mag

butter and oils and greasy things


(without trouble)

Note that this is not a noun...

zahmetsiz mahmetsiz

easy, not difficult, not onerous, etc.

Example sentences:

ÇarsIdan kalem malem aldIm.
I bought pens and other writing materials at the store.

Kalem malem yok mu?
Isn’t there anything to write with?

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Did you spot the missing letter in the previous M-doublet Consonant Chart?

Well, surprise! It's 'M' itself...
Words beginning with m can’t ‘benefit’ from this special language feature of Turkish.
For m-words, then, you have to resort to filan (or falan or filan falan) as in,
merhaba falan; 'hello' and similar greetings...

One final observation/warning…
Despite the ‘technical correctness’ of the m-doublets
Antalya mantalya,
dünya münya,
and deniz meniz,
a Turk would not use those expressions.
For some reason, they just don't 'sound right'
according to highly placed Turkish language 'experts'

(two guys we met on Bar Street in Kusadasî last Tuesday...)

Instead, he or she would use something like:
Antalya filan to mean Antalya and similar towns,
dünya filan falan to mean the world and similar planetary bodies
deniz falan to mean the sea, the beach, etc....

And there are other m-doublet exception words like those, but
we are just too tarr’d to list them all right now…

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More to Come!
Words that don’t make ‘good’ m-doublets

ikilemeler categories for --
nouns, pronouns, adverbs, exclamations, gerunds, participles, infinitives …
Historical and Poetical examples of

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