A joey is the perfect description for a word within a word

‘Masculine’ contains within it the word ‘male’. Another is ‘chicken’ with ‘hen’ within, and ‘honourable’ with ‘noble’ within. Isn’t that thrilling?

I cannot contain the excitement. I’ve been feeling like a child again, at pre-dawn on Christmas morning rushing into an exhausted Mammy and Daddy so they would be the very first to know the wonderful presents Santy has brought. Such surprise! (In truth, I was always somewhat taken aback by their lack of excitement on Christmas morning and would put this down to age. They were old, after all. All parents were then, to my eyes.)

Anyhow, just recently I discovered the wonderful phenomenon that is the “kangaroo word”. You, crossword fans to my left, take heed. No doubt some of you have heard it all before and are now like my father and mother on Christmas morning when confronted with the familiar. But, please, you don’t have to pretend to be excited for my sake.

I find it utterly charming as concept, this idea of a word “pregnant” with similar meaning. That’s why it has been called a “kangaroo” word and why its word-within-a word is called a “joey” – the Aussie term for a baby kangaroo. This word within a word is termed a “synonym”, meaning a word or phrase that means exactly or nearly the same as the word or phrase that “carries” it.

Enough with the excitement. Here’s an example. The word “masculine” contains within it the word “male”, and with the letters in their correct order too. Another is “chicken” with “hen” within, and “honourable” with “noble” within. Isn’t that just thrilling?


Okay, okay, let’s curb the enthusiasm. That’s hardly appropriate on this page where tranquillity is de rigueur; where Simplex and Crosaire, Sudoku, Chess and Bridge sit so easily with the divine might above and not a cross word (Really! Did you have to? Editor.) between them. Except, occasionally, in this column.

But it is difficult not to get carried away in the search for all those “joeys” in their never-complaining big mamma kangaroos. Such as “observe” with “see” within, “plagiarist” and “liar”, “rambunctious” and “raucous”. Exciting isn’t it? And that is not all.

There are those kangaroo words that contain more than one “joey”: such as “container”, pregnant with “can” and “tin”, “chariot” with “car” and “cart”, “routine” with “rote” and “rut”.

Too, too much. I’d better lie down.

Kangaroo, from gaNurru/gang-oo-roo in Aboriginal Guugu Yimidhirr language.