Image of an ampersand for Caroline Gibson's copywriting blog about phrases joined by and

Where To Find Phrases With Words Joined By “And” (aka Irreversible Binomials)

Image of an ampersand for Caroline Gibson's copywriting blog about irreversible binomials

I recently came up with a campaign concept which involved using words joined by “and” in phrases.

I was after a quick resource for inspiration beyond the phrases I already knew. It was frustrating: I knew what I wanted to find, but not the correct term to search for the result. Because if you Google phrases joined by “and” (which seemed a pretty obvious place to start, frankly, a load of stuff pops up to do with conjunctions (i.e., “and”, “but”, and “or”). Which wasn’t what I was after.

Thankfully I got there in the end and found a fantastic guide called Fixed Phrases with “and” which helpfully lists phrases out by noun expressions (bread and butter, law and order, wear and tear; by verb expressions (come and go, huff and puff); by adverb expressions (far and wide, now and again), and by adjective expressions (black and blue, home and dry). So do check out Paul Fanning’s list.

And if you want to be really fancy or if the question ever pops up in a pub quiz, then let’s talk “irreversible binomials”. Who knew! Yes, irreversible binomials may sound like a fatal disease but it actually means a pair of words used together in a fixed order as an expression, usually joined by “and’ or ‘or”. And if you really want to show off your linguistics knowledge, other terms meaning the same are “frozen binomial” and a “non-reversible word pair”. (Horror of horrors: another term listed in the 1965 edition of Fowler’s Modern English Usage – and thankfully since removed – was “Siamese twins”.)

Have a look on Wikipedia and you’ll find stacks more suggestions plus other lists, such as with alliteration (baubles and beads, to have and to hold, rock and roll) and with rhymes (near and dear, meet and greet).

I haven’t posted endless lists of irreversible binomials here because that’s yawningly dull in a blog (and rather insulting to those who’ve spent so long putting lists together) when you can easily link to these useful sources yourself from here, but I hope the above makes finding what you need nice and easy. Over and out.

Written by Caroline Gibson, freelance copywriter and grammar lover

E:  T: +44 (0) 7957 567766

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