How to define this language mistake?
July 17, 2007 3:08 PM   Subscribe

Is there a term for mangling two words to create a new word or term?

In conversations with two different people they've incorrectly combined words or terms to express themselves.

During the first discussion, the guy described his misunderstanding of what someone was saying by stating, "I misconscrewed it up."

The second time, another guy explained his inability to talk while upset by saying he was, "flustrated."

Malaprop is the closest I've come, but it's not quite what happens. And I'd love to hear other examples, because I think there's a strange brilliance to this phenomenon.
posted by suki to Writing & Language (28 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
posted by nowonmai at 3:10 PM on July 17, 2007

Portmanteau is also close but not technically 100% what you're asking.
posted by kcm at 3:10 PM on July 17, 2007

Malapropism comes close.

The Sopranos was good for that:

We're in a f***ing stagmire here!
posted by KokuRyu at 3:22 PM on July 17, 2007

posted by adamrice at 3:23 PM on July 17, 2007

I like Sniglet, though not all those words are mashed-up words.
posted by GaelFC at 3:25 PM on July 17, 2007

It's not spoonerism. More like a portmanteau combined with a malapropism. So I'd go with malamanteau or a portmanpropism.
posted by ludwig_van at 3:31 PM on July 17, 2007 [27 favorites]

searching wikipedia for the answer to this question (which I coulnd't find) turned out to be really run. i could barely contain my laughter when reading these Murrayisms.
posted by PercussivePaul at 3:35 PM on July 17, 2007

Another possibility: neologism.

It is not precisely what you are talking about, but (unlike most portmanteaus) many neologisms do incorporate the combination of words in a slightly incorrect fashion.
posted by googly at 3:52 PM on July 17, 2007

My best portmanteau word: Spontanimosity!

Describes the experience of meeting and instantly disliking someone. I didn't coin it but I knew the gal who did.
posted by tiny crocodile at 3:52 PM on July 17, 2007 [2 favorites]

I immediately thought Sniglet as well. Especially in the case of "flustrated," as I have heard that word used.
posted by clh at 3:53 PM on July 17, 2007

Hmmm...for words intended to be used only once or twice, perhaps nonce word might be an apt description. If the word has legs ("e.g., "truthiness"), it may be a neologism.
posted by mosk at 3:54 PM on July 17, 2007

And of course Colemanballs:
posted by Infinite Jest at 3:57 PM on July 17, 2007

It's much, much more portmanteau than malapropism. malapropism suggests that the person saying it has made a mistake whereas something like flustrated or misconscrewed sounds deliberate.
posted by juv3nal at 5:04 PM on July 17, 2007

@tiny crocodile
my best portmanteau word (that I coined): Heathengelical.
(coined in reference to Richard Dawkins, but since come to mean any rabid atheist)

To answer the OP: It's not really anything directly, I don't think. I like ludwig_van's idea of making a portmanteau of portmanteau and malapropism to describe it.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 5:33 PM on July 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

Douglas Hofstadter is a fan of these particular kinds of errors, and claims to have an index-card file of thousands. He discusses some of his many examples in this video (realvideo link), which is fascinating all the way through.
posted by argybarg at 5:35 PM on July 17, 2007

Hm. Maybe. Those examples are kinda clever sounding but it seems the asker is thinking of occasions where the person has made an unintentional mistake, not a bon mot.

If intentional, I think the simplest word to define some of these is pun.

If unintentional, malapropism will do. I don't know of a specialized word for this kind of mistake.
posted by scarabic at 5:35 PM on July 17, 2007

And I would doubt that flustrated is actually intentional -- people cough up these sorts of errors mostly as errors (a sort of linguistic short circuit) and not Joycean blends or neologisms (which are intentional).
posted by argybarg at 5:37 PM on July 17, 2007

Yeah, I immediately thought "neologism."

My favorite (which some nice people credited me with coining): Tragesty.
posted by limeonaire at 5:37 PM on July 17, 2007

I would have said "portmanteau," but ludwig_van wins. It's a malamanteau from now on as far as I'm concerned. And as far as examples go, I can't believe nobody's mentioned the most famous malamanteau yet: "misunderestimate."

Incidentally, my wife invented a malamanteau today: "exorberant." It describes something on which you gleefully spend far too much money.
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:51 PM on July 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

Here is one of my favorite portmanpropisms:
Sarcurious — when somebody takes a tone that is both sarcastic and curious, likely because they are defensive about not understanding the previous statement.
posted by iamkimiam at 5:53 PM on July 17, 2007

Oh, and limeonaire, back in college my circle of friends had a similar word, but taken further: a traumajesty is a situation that is, simultaneously, a tragedy, a travesty and a trauma, but brings all of these conditions to majestic new heights.
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:57 PM on July 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

A great malamanteau I heard a few months ago was "overflowded".
posted by oneirodynia at 6:14 PM on July 17, 2007

Again, not quite it, but something like an eggcorn.

If anybody knows the name of this, I bet the guys at Language Log do.
posted by not that girl at 7:39 PM on July 17, 2007

My favorite is "Ambiviolence," as in, "who should I kill?!"
I'd go with Portmanteau.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 9:05 PM on July 17, 2007

Oh, another neologism that hasn't been mentioned yet, but is related is folk/false etymology, when a word or phrase takes on a new pronounciation based on a misunderstanding or misinterpretation of its origin. Popular folk etymologies are woodchuck, blunderbuss, and history. Folk etymology isn't quite the term you're looking for though, because that presupposes that the word has become mainstream and that people have misunderstood its origins. But it's loosely related.
posted by iamkimiam at 9:28 PM on July 17, 2007

limeonaire - okay, you may be getting credit for tragesty, but I've got tragitastic!
posted by po at 12:48 AM on July 18, 2007

Neither precisely fish (portmanteau) nor fowl (malapropism), the only possible name for such lexical chimeras (e.g., craptacular, fugly, manscaping) is portapropis.

Indeed, like its eponym the movable loo, the rarest offer relief and horror in equal measures.
posted by rob511 at 11:16 PM on July 18, 2007

Bushism. "Misunderestimate," anyone?
posted by Reggie Digest at 6:52 AM on July 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

« Older An English book set in blackletter?   |   Fill my mental scientific tables. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.