nunchuck

This word seems to have two of each bit: two n‘s, two u‘s, two c‘s – all like a hinged pair of sticks being whirled around – and then there’s the near-pair of h and k (each following a c), the latter looking like a version of the former that has been whacked with something. It brings interesting echoes, too: is it a woodchuck that has taken holy orders, perhaps? But in common speech, the nun often comes out as numb (and you will see this word written numchuck too), perhaps just because of the added heaviness of the [m], perhaps because if you chuck – or strike or whack or some similar sharp act – somebody with the object they may be knocked numb or dumb, i.e., unconscious or possibly dead. Anyway, the vowels are both written u and said as unrounded mid-central vowels, the sound of grunts and thuds and blunt clubs, and while the word starts with the pair of nasals it crunches into the ch and cracks the final [k]. Those who use this instrument – or rather these instruments, as one typically speaks of a pair of nunchucks, even though the original word refers to the whole thing, not one of the joined halves – are at least as likely to use the source Japanese word (itself ultimately derived from Chinese), nunchaku. The final u in Japanese is voiceless and sometimes just plain dropped, and the other two vowels got harmonized into the bluntest of English vowels to make the Anglicized version a pair of syllables, one gripped in the hand and one cracking something – your skull, perhaps.

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