Boustrophedonic describes a writing system that writes alternatively from left to right then right to left: boustro means ox, phedon means to turn, so boustrophedonic writing is written is as the ox turns to plow a field.
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.
This is a way to pass the time in traffic or walking through parking lots.
The license plate game is played by choosing 3 random letters (conveniently generated by most US license plates), and then naming as many words and phrases that can be made out of those letters in that order, consecutively or nonconsecutively. It may help to think of the letters with a space before and after each of them ( _B_R_T_) to visualize your options. Break them up into separate words or squish them together, do what you like as long as they stay in that order.
If you get stuck, you can ‘cheat’ by using wildcards on OneLook.com (e.g., *b*r*t*). Warning: those results are often very NSFW. When you play, you’ll likely personalize the length and goal of the game. Shortest word, longest word, name of a person or place, idiom, best invented compound, your victory conditions are your own.
If you come up with some particularly good ones, leave a comment or tweet them using #_B_R_T_ in the next week, and they’ll be added to the master list here. No points, no prizes, just a warm-up exercise for your brain before games of Scrabble, crossword puzzles, anagrams, and any other word-based fun you plan on having today. Follow @E_Briannica for future prompts.
|ABSTRACT||…BABY ONE MORE TIME|
The license plate game is played by choosing 3 random letters (conveniently generated by most US license plates), and then naming as many words and phrases that can be made out of those letters in that order, consecutively or nonconsecutively. This is a way to pass the time in traffic or walking through parking lots. It may help to think of the letters with a space before and after each of them ( _V_G_N_) to visualize your options. Break them up into separate words or squish them together, do what you like as long as they stay in that order.
If you get stuck, you can ‘cheat’ by using wildcards on OneLook.com (e.g., *v*g*n*). Warning: those results are often very NSFW. When you play, you’ll likely personalize the length and goal of the game. Shortest word, longest word, name of a person or place, idiom, best invented compound, your victory conditions are your own.
If you come up with some particularly good ones, leave a comment or tweet them using #_V_G_N_ in the next week, and they’ll be added to the master list here. No points, no prizes, just a warm-up exercise for your brain before games of Scrabble, crossword puzzles, anagrams, and any other word-based fun you plan on having today. There will be a new License Plate Game next week on Wednesday. Follow @E_Briannica for future prompts.
|LIVING NIGHTMARE||EVENING GOWN|
|HEAVY MACHINE GUN||SAUVIGNON BLANC|
Be an alphabetic ally!
Contribute to the Wordnik Kickstarter right now through October 16th.
In 2007, lexicographer Erin McKean gave a TED talk that addressed two big problems dictionaries faced at the time. The first was the uninspired transfer of paper dictionaries onto websites without modifying the format to integrate the features and connections possible in its new digital surroundings. The second was the long-term issue of undictionaried words, which causes wide-spread confusion about wordhood and legitimacy. What does it mean if a word does not appear in a dictionary? Is it not good enough, is it too new, or is there just no space for it in the physical book?
Fortunately for us, Erin has been working to solve both of these issues through Wordnik, an online dictionary which includes entries for ALL THE WORDS of English.
Every word and phrase on Wordnik has its own page, populated with definitions, examples, related words, pictures, pronunciations, and community discussions. Even if Wordnik has not found a traditional dictionary definition for a word, it still gets a page, and any user may add comments, tags, or create a list and add that word to it, giving it context and connecting it to the greater web of English.
Wordnik is a non-profit, and receives donations through the adoption of words.
In January, I adopted the word quiddity. For adopting quiddity, I received stickers, a certificate, and my name on the Wordnik quiddity page for a year.
I chose quiddity because it sounds fancy, and is a fancy philosophical concept, but also translates as whatness, which belongs in an existential reboot of “Who’s on First.”
I love many words, and next year I may adopt inexpressibles, breadth or companion, but I’d be right chuffed if someone else adopted them first. There are millions of adoptable words, and I have a crush on most of them.
You can adopt any word on Wordnik through the Kickstarter for just $25. People tend to choose established words with well-populated pages, like emoji and cat, but you can adopt elaborate phrases and neologisms just the same.
In the sentence “The monster destroyed the city”, the monster is the agent, and the city is the patient. The monster acts out the action of the verb, while the city has the action of the verb happen to it.
Many people have cast themselves as patients of English, walking cautiously around the language, trying not to wake it. They’re afraid they’ll make mistakes and be punished by an omniscient judge. And while it’s true that people make judgments based on your written and spoken words, you haven’t been sentenced to a life in word prison unless you’ve done it to yourself.
English is a living language. It is dynamic. By using it every day, you are shaping what it is, and what it will become. If you love a word, use it. That’s what makes words real in English.
Putting all of the words of English in the same place, under the same banner, in the same soup, will be, and already is, a very powerful thing. By including ALL THE WORDS, Wordnik is removing the barriers between SAT vocabulary, technical jargon, and regional slang. On Wordnik, step up to the plate stands on equal ground with prestidigitation, bunny hug, yonic, hexamethylenediamine, Gordie Howe hat trick, and a million others.
When you encounter a new word in the wild, it could come from anywhere. With Wordnik, you only need to look in one place to find out its secrets and use them to your advantage.
Don’t let language just happen to you. Be an agent of language. Donate to Wordnik right now and claim a little corner of English for yourself.
(And while you’re at it, support the GoFundMe campaign for the Dictionary of American Regional English).
Cutthroats are compounds that name people and things by describing what they do. Cutthroats are made from a transitive verb and a noun, where the noun is the direct object of the verb.
Cutthroats are found in many languages, but my research focuses on the inspired and vulgar creations found in English. Cutthroat productivity is very limited in English, and yet I have collected over 1,300 of them in the last 6 years, far beyond previous estimates. You may be familiar with the following cutthroats:
For a brief academic summary of cutthroats, read my 2015 DSNA/SHEL abstract.
For an overwhelming list of all cutthroat candidates catalogued thus far (there are more), check out these 1273 cutthroats.
For my overworked and undercooked 2012 MA thesis, read Hughes Dissertation 2012
These compounds have been called many names in the past, but it appears that I’m the first to call them cutthroats. You may be more familiar with tosspot, turncoat, scarecrow, wrap-rascal, Shakespeare, or terpsimbrotos. I use the term cutthroats to unify the bunch because cutthroat is the most representative example of the pattern. It is a calque from French coupe-gorge, and many early English cutthroat compounds were French loanwords, which were then translated and played with, creating variations and semantic clumps. Those loans influenced the topics covered by this pattern in the following centuries. I am aware that introducing a new term does not eliminate the problem of multiple terms.
This is an update of the list of 892 Cutthroats posted a month ago. It seems the cutthroats multiplied while I was away in Vancouver.
My deep appreciation to everyone who suggests potential resources and words to me. Each little compound ties into the larger web and illuminates a corner of this pattern. Thank you. I literally can’t do this without you.
As before, there is much research to be done, and it is likely that a number of the attached cutthroats will not stand up to scrutiny. For now, I would rather include non-cutthroats than dismiss them during this wide sweep and regret it later. Once the pace of cutthroat collection slows, I will provide more details about the words−definitions, earliest dates, earliest sources, arguments for and against inclusion.
If you know a cutthroat that does not appear on the list, please let me know in the comments, or contact me on Twitter.
Some cutthroats use and describe vulgarity, so please consider your surroundings before taking a look at the list.
The list is divided into 22 columns of 45 words: 990 Cutthroats
Amuse through Break
Break through Catch
Catch through Cling
Clip through Ding
Ding through Fill
Fill through Gripe
Gripp through Kick
Kick through Lack
Lack through Move
Make through Mumble
Nip through Pinch
Pinch through Quake
Quake through Scald
Scald through Shack
Shack through Slap
Slide through Spill
Spill through Steal
Steal through Stroke
Suck through Tear
Tear through Trouble
Trouble through Wait
Wake through Xpel
Through the ripples of the article by Stan Carey about my research, I’ve been receiving many new cutthroats from the good people of the internet. Commenters fear that they are calling my attention to a cutthroat I already know about, so this is the temporary solution as I continue work on my SHEL/DSNA presentation.
The attached PDF lists 892 words that I’ve been considering off and on as cutthroats. I question the membership of many of these words. Later, when there is time, I will provide a similar list with earliest dates of appearance, general categories (person, tool, game, animal, plant, adj, other), and specific definitions.
Cutthroats are written variably with a space, no space, or hyphen, so check all listings for each verb if you’re looking for a certain entry. If you don’t see one on the list, please tell me about it here in the comments, or tweet @E_Briannica.
The words are divided into 9 columns, 2 pages each, based on the following verbs that begin the compounds:
NSFW: The list contains vulgar words not suitable for workplace browsing.
Note: I have not yet integrated the cutthroats found by David-Antoine Williams’ oed.com script, listed in his Life of Words post. There is much work to be done.