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.