Let my trip be yours.

Word Lust: Pt. 1

word wood

If you frequent this blog (or actually know me), then you are probably aware of my fondness for puns. To me, puns are the highest forms of humor because they embody all the best aspects of humor: a quick wit, intelligence, a vast knowledge of culture and history. But most of all, they deal with wordplay. Those who love puns are those who loves language, and those who love to manipulate language. I thought I’d compiled some of my favorite word groups and share some language love.

Retronym: These are one of my favorite linguistic fun facts. A retronym is a word created when a new version of something comes out and becomes synonymous with the product and the old version is forced to tack a prefix on it’s name (or create a new name altogether) to differentiate it. The common examples are “Coke” becoming “Coke Classic” in reference to the fiasco that was “New Coke” and timepieces and electronic instruments having to stick “analog” in front of their name when their digital counterparts became the norm. My favorite example is how “hot chocolate” used to just be “chocolate” as the liquid form was the only type that existed. With the invention of chocolate bars however, liquid chocolate became less popular and was forced to add an adjective.

Backronym: Along the same line as the retronym, is the bac(k)ronym. Essentially, it’s when an acronym that originally meant nothing, is given a meaning down the road. There are the comical ones, such as Ford meaning “Fix Or Repair Daily” and the marketing ones, such as Adidas claiming their name means “All Day I Dream About Soccer” (it doesn’t).

Neologism: Essentially, a neologism is just a new word. This may seem somewhat relative, but it makes sense given most words have been around for sometime. Neologisms are the terms that have popped up for the newer content of the past century or so. The most intruiging of these is the term “heterosexual” being coined in the late 1800s after the word “homosexual” was invented a few years prior.

Portmanteau: This is one of my favorite groups. A portmanteau occurs when you mash two words together to make a new one. It’s like puns and neologisms combined. The most popular example would be: web + log = blog.


Comments on: "Word Lust: Pt. 1" (11)

  1. Mayor Prankster said:

    No less than Tyra Banks has created a brand new Portmanteau.
    She clued Larry King in on “Smeyes”-ing.
    Smiling with your eyes.

  2. Mayor Prankster said:

    Also This-

  3. Ooooh. I love her. She’s so smart.
    Her show tapes right around the corner from my work.

  4. that is amazing. I’d love to drink that. What’s the George one say?

  5. I need to buy juice boxes. Those with a squiggle straw on our next adventure.

  6. filled with clementine juice if possible

  7. Mayor Prankster said:

    Whoops, you asked about George. I have no idea what that one says.

  8. syndetonation said:

    I’m a lover of language myself. It’s one of those things that at first glance seems superficial. Then at second glance seems insightful. Then at glancing at those insights they seem too simple and have too much “duh” factor to be any use. Then, going full circle realizing that it *is* its simplicity that makes the thing crucially important; language is so innate and on a level that seems to bridge not only our instincts to our wits, but from person to person. Slang and jargon help certain people come closer together because it makes the group both ‘unique’ and ‘united’ — making a person realize they aren’t alone. 4chan is a good example of a site where people of… “common demographics” come together and unite under their esoteric lingo. Credit where credit is due, 4chan is also a group that prominently takes advantage of the visual language and not only the verbal. But it can just as easily separate us and cause tension.

    I’ll give an example of such tension. I play an online computer game called Heroes of Newerth. Like most games, it’s played internationally, but most of the plays isolate themselves by country because of ping times. However, one group that often shares the same servers is between North Americans (U.S./Canada) and Brazilians (the game is crazy popular in Brazil for some reason). Communication is a key component to the game–one that decides winning or losing–so when there’s a language barrier, it frustrates players. It goes beyond North Americans simply refusing to play with Brazilians and vice versa: many players on both sides show hatred and insert ‘racially charged comments’ (to be PC).

    There’s no foundation to this hatred. There are great (and bad) players in both countries. It’s a hatred born simply out of not being able to properly communicate and refusing to try. Without language, misunderstanding is ubiquitous. But fortunately not everyone is this immature. I’ve played with Brazilians in a few games where we each knew enough of each others languages (English and Portuguese) to get some minimally understanding going, supplemented with non-verbal language such as map pings and common in-game lingo. We usually do just fine. It’s silly how easily the language barrier is circumvented with just some patience and common sense.

    The game example above is just one example of a conflict that happens all the time. Latin Americans are facing a similar but far more important and deeper conflict today in the U.S., and a good portion of it simply can be rooted back to language. My own mother shares hear fears of “this whole country is going to be speaking Spanish soon.” On one hand, it’s sad that it’s such an arbitrarily rooted distrust, but it makes sense. Language is part of the foundation of who we are, and when someone encroaches on it, people feel violated.

    Sorry for the rant. I dig your blog.

    -Eric P

  9. Wow. You certainly win longest comment ever. I hope others follow your example. I’m glad to inspire such a rant, as I am a huge fan of them myself.
    My love for language exists as a dichotomy at times, with my love for proper language contradicted my love for slang and the manipulation of language. I think slang and the like is most acceptable when it comes from a place of learning the language, and then breaking the rules. It’s damaging when it is used because of ignorance of the proper way to speak.

    As for the international conflict, that is a touchy area. I wish we could all speak the same language because it would be more unifying and there’s no need to have thousands of different languages for one people, but at the same time I suppose that’d be boring and many people would never agree to it because they link it so closely to their identity. Which is where the dissent against the growing presence of Spanish in America comes from. I think many go about it the wrong way, but it really does boil down to the simple fact that while people shouldn’t be forced to have English as a primary language in this country, they should be expected to know it in order to be a citizen and especially to work in this country just as anyone moving to Spain would be expected to learn Spanish to function there. We should be considerate of those speaking it as a second language, but the prevailing trend is for those of other countries to barely learn intelligible English, yet function in an English-speaking society.

    By the way, is this Eric Peterson?

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