New words come into English in many ways (borrowing, backformation, verbing nouns, acronyms, etc), but the most visible word formations in Modern English tend to be blends. Blends (or portmanteaus) are created when at least two words are shoved together physically and phonetically to form a new word. Smog, frenemy, bloggorhea, hacktivist, cronut, phablet, sext, guyliner; they stick out as neologisms, and being visible means they endure a lot of public scrutiny.
Three- to five-part blends are significantly less productive, but there are enough of them to discuss, semi-academically. These are the most common ones: turducken, Nabisco, Tribeca, Benelux, CONMEBOL, and Croc-gu-phant.
Since reading Gretchen McCulloch’s practical explanation of shipping name blends on The Toast, looking through The Portmanteau Dictionary (Thurner, 1950), and finding Natalia Beliaeva’s 2014 thesis on English blends, I’ve been gathering multi-part blends in a Wordnik list. Here’s what I’ve learned:
THE TOPICS COVERED
Places: Benelux, BoCoCa, Chindonesia, Colocaliexas, Dalworthington Gardens, Delmarva, Dowisetrepla, Jabotabek, Lamorinda, Michillinda, Morindette, NoLIta, Nylonkong, SoDoSoPa, Texarkana, Tribeca
Organizations: CONMEBOL, Dasariski, Filoli, Nabisco, Morzouksnick, Ohaton
Events: Biz Cas Fri, blizzapocalypsegeddon, Christmahannakwanzadan, NaNoGenMo, NaNoWriMo, Thankshallowistmas
Common Nouns and Adjectives: afflufemza, ampersand, basticherbator, caublasian, compushency, herohotic, MoSoSo, romzomcom, SoLoMo
Foods: ortanique, peacotum, turducken
Products: Optacon, sudoopoo
Shipping names for OT3s and broT3s [sampling from Tumblr and fanlore.org]: Dalarenzo, Emarianna, Hollenstein, Johnlolly, Jollock, Jollylock, Klarenzo, Klefaroline, LaHollstein, LeeSeungHyun, Lunar Harmony, Major Ravioli, McHalenski, McTatenski, Pearlapidot, Sakata, Siremulus, Snarco, Spannaria, Spemaria, Sterydia, TaeGiKook, TaeKookMin, ToBaeDae, YoonMinSeok, YoonSeokNam, Zarriam, Zouiall, Zourry, etc.
BLENDING VS CLIPPING
In her conclusions, Beliaeva makes a smart distinction between clipping compounds and blends, determining that there are different motivations and methods that lead to their shortening and grouping in certain ways.
For her, clipping compounds come from existing phrases such as “National Biscuit Company” and “optical to tactile converter” which are then reduced down to their initial sounds to create Nabisco and Optacon, respectively. Other clipping compounds include NaNoWriMo, Biz Cas Fri, ampersand, Filoli, SoLoMo, romzomcom, sudoopoo, Tribeca, and Dowistrepla. There are two-part clipping compounds too, including SoMa, retcon, pro-am, sci-fi, sitcom, Pokémon, and MoCap. In clipping compounds, the words are represented by their first segments (similar to acronyms, but slightly longer).
Blends, on the other hand, do not come from pre-existing phrases. Their concepts are brought together and shortened into one word simultaneously. All of the examples from the first paragraph are blends of this kind. These seem more productive than clipping, and usually include the first part of one word, and the last part of the other, resulting in a somewhat natural-sounding word.
WILL IT BLEND?
McCulloch lists a number of factors that go into which names go first and what portions of words are included in blends: overlap, stress match, onset conservation (words starting with more consonants go first), orthographic transparency, and lexical neighborhood evaluation.
When three words are involved, the result can get unwieldy pretty quickly, so there also may be a bias towards preserving the minimum of each word, like the “Z” in Zourry, Zarriam, and Zouiall standing in for One Direction member Zayn, with parts from Louie, Harry, Liam and Niall filling in the rest. (There are many 1D shipping names.)
On the other hand, a number of these creations are intentionally comedic (biz cas Fri, blizzapocalypsegeddon, Christmahannakwanzadan, Dowisetrepla), so their length is a feature, not a bug.
BEGINNINGS AND ENDINGS
Beliaeva makes a distinction between whole words and partial words, but I won’t here. For me, sometimes “first” and “last” also means the entire word is represented as in John in Johnlolly and Orinda in Lamorinda. Here’s how the multi-part blends break down:
First-first-first (but not clipping): Benelux, BoCoCa, Delmarva, Jabodetabek, Ohaton, Sakata
First-first-last: blizzapocalypsegeddon, caublasian, Chindonesia, Christmahannakwanzadan, Colocaliexas, compushency, Dalarenzo, herohotic, LaHollstein, Lamorinda, Lunar Harmony, Major Ravioli, McHalenski, McTatenski, Michillinda, Morindette, Nylonkong, ortanique, Pearlapidot, Siremulus, Spannaria, Spemaria, Texarkana, Thankshallowistmas, turducken
First-middle-last: Croc-gu-phant, Dasaraski, Emarianna, Jollock, Klarenzo, Klefaroline, Por-gua-can, Snarco, Sterydia, Zourry, Zouiall, Zarriam
First-last-last: basticherbator, Dalworthington Gardens, Hollenstein, Johnlolly, Jollylock, peacotum, Morzouksnick, TaeGiKook
There is an area near Berkeley, CA known as either Lamorinda (from Lafayette, Moraga and Orinda) or Morindette (from Moraga, Orinda, and Lafayette), which takes into account “lexical neighborhood evaluation” and sounds like “more in debt.”
Johnlolly, Jollock or Jollylock? In two-person pairings, Sherlock and Molly are Sherlolly, while John and Sherlock are Johnlock. Joining the three together, the variants branch off from those existing pairings, with Jollock reducing Molly further to sound like “jaw lock.”
Carmilla shippers can choose between Hollenstein and LaHollstein, Hollis-Lawrence-Karnstein, or Lawrence-Hollis-Karnstein. Again, pre-existing two-person names like Hollence and Hollstein affect these expansions.
Beliaeva proves clipping compounds and blends are similar but different enough to be separated if need be. Blends generally follow the guidelines outlined by McCulloch, but since each one is created independently, variants are common.
Three-part blends are generally unproductive in English, but internet fandoms have found a use for them in shipping. No evidence currently supports the idea that 3-part shipping blends have increased 3-part blends outside of fandoms, but the internet is large, so it’s possible.
There are too many shipping names to catalog them all, but if you find other multi-part blends, please let me know here or on Twitter.