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Alternative forms[edit]


Probably reduplication of tacky.[1] Apparently coined by Malvina Reynolds in the early 1960s (see quotation, below).


ticky-tacky (uncountable)

  1. (US) Cheap, low-quality building material, especially as that used to make conventional suburban housing of a uniform design.
    • 1962, Malvina Reynolds (lyrics and music), “Little Boxes”:
      And the boys go into business, and marry and raise a family / In boxes made of ticky-tacky, and they all look just the same.


ticky-tacky (not comparable)

  1. (US) Made of this material; cheaply built, of low quality.
    • 2013, K.T. Berger, Where the Road and the Sky Collide, page 112:
      My first impression was that Phoenix was another American Dream (a la L.A.) come true—ticky-tacky tract housing complexes and mini-malls stretching boundlessly into the flat desert horizon.
  2. (by extension) Inferior, minor, trivial.
    • 2010, Charles Mertz, So, You Want to be a Teacher, page 99:
      It almost seems that major discipline problems take care of themselves; it is the day-to-day little ticky-tacky issues that bind and scratch and itch until you find that you are boxed in with a class that you can no longer control.


  1. ^ ticky-tacky, n. and adj.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, launched 2000