Phrasal overlap portmanteaus

Hilary Price’s Rhymes With Orange plays with phrasal portmanteaus based on overlaps:

Fond memory foam bed is based on two two-word expressions, the A + N combination (a common collocation or cliché — depending on your opinion of the combination) fond memory and the N + N compound (a kind of commercial jargon) memory foam bed. (I call this a portmanteau rather than a blend, though the labels are often used interchangeably. In my usage, portmanteaus are originally deliberate creations, often devised with playful intent, while blends are inadvertent errors. You’re under no obligation to follow my usage, of course.)

Phrasal overlap portmanteaus (POPs for short) don’t have to be based on two-word expressions exclusively. “Pop goes the weasel words” would be entirely possible, and more elaborate POPs than this are attested — in particular, the wonderful “I’ll kick him in the Ball’s Pond Road”, from the Monty Python Word Association Football — note the POP — routine on the Matching Tie and Handkerchief album. This has overlapping kick him in the balls (from a partially open idiom family, or small construction, V SOMEONE in the BODY-PART) and the proper noun Ball’s Pond Road (the name of a London street).

[Entertaining digression: People trying to transcribe the Python routine who don’t catch the London street reference cope as best they can with what they hear: for instance, “kick him in the balls upon the road” (possibly just a phonological reinterpretation) and “kick him in the balls down the road” (a rationalization of the expression that treats it as a syntactic portmanteau, but of a more routine type: “kick him in the balls” + “kick him down the road”).]

We’ve been on to POPs before, notably in a Language Log posting of mine, “Sweet Tooth Fairies”, reporting on Erin McKean’s longer, and delightful, discussion in a Boston Globe “The Word” column. And then I returned to the topic on this blog, on “dilating eye teeth”, here; this one’s a combo of the VP dilating [one’s] eye and the (opaque) N + N compound eye teeth.

I suppose that phrasal-overlap combos occasionally arise as inadvertent blends, but mostly they’re playful deliberate portmanteaus. People invent them as a game, playing (figuratively) for cleverness points.

19 Responses to “Phrasal overlap portmanteaus”

  1. Graham Hidderley/Burgess Says:

    Hah! Hi, Arnold.
    Can I reproduce your ‘fond memory foam bed’ illustration on please?
    Graham H/B

  2. arnoldzwicky Says:

    Re Graham H/B’s request.

    To the readers: Graham introduced the term sweet tooth fairy for POPs (see Erin McKean’s column). The phenomenon was well-known for a long time before that (see Monty Python, American television game shows, and no doubt much more), but it had no generally used name (even word association football). Graham’s proposal was for the name; cf. Mondegreen, eggcorn, and other labels for phenomena derived from exemplars of the phenomena.

    To Graham: if you want permission from someone, Hilary Price (or the company syndicating her cartoons) is the person to apply to, though I don’t think you need permission (but you certainly would if you wanted to reprint the cartoon in a book). In any case, requests like this should properly go to the person you’re making them of — that’s one of the things e-mail is good for — rather than be inserted as a comment on a blog.

  3. Chris Ambidge Says:

    I suspect that the Monty Python “Kicked him in the Ball’s Pond Road” is also a deliberate echo of the UK Music Hall song, “Knocked him in the Old Kent Road”.

  4. xyzzyva Says:

    Then there’s the Wheel of Fortune category, Before and After.

  5. Morphological overlap portmanteaus « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] (morphological overlap portmanteau) parallel to the POPs (phrasal overlap portmanteaus) illustrated here — both of the form XYZ, with contributing expressions XY and YZ. Here. Guggenheim + […]

  6. Telescoped POPs? « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] another POP (phrasal overlapping portmanteau), Larry King + King Kong = Larry King Kong. As postings on POPs […]

  7. Telescoped POPs with a twist « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] the connection to ordinary phrasal overlap portmanteaus (POPs) — Christopher Lloyd George, Sophia Loren Eiseley (though this one works only in […]

  8. POP games « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] A game (call it Eddie Albert Camus, or Sweet Tooth Fairies) going in the other direction, with the full POP as the clue and the definition as the solution, is part of what people do when they goof around inventing POPs for fun and then devising definitions for the results. Not as challenging as Larry Kong or Fish Mixes, but still entertaining. And where we came into this topic in the first place. […]

  9. A portmanteau crop « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] 5/13/10: Phrasal overlap portmanteaus (link) […]

  10. Name chains « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] special type of POP (phrasal overlap portmanteau), the “name chain”, in a […]

  11. Bizarro POP « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] classic POP — phrasal overlap portmanteau — building on clown college, college football, and football […]

  12. New frontiers in overlaps « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] posting “Sweet tooth fairies” (sweet tooth / tooth fairy) — general discussion here, morphological examples (Guggenheimlich: Guggenheim / Heimlich) here – but now at the […]

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    […] then there’s the strip’s title, “Square Root Beer”, a phrasal overlap portmanteau. Like this:LikeBe the first to like […]

  14. The inevitable POP « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] just posted on Pad Thai, I should have realized that the inevitable techie phrasal overlap portmanteau (or POP) would have cropped up: iPad Thai. And so it […]

  15. Bizarro POP « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] posted a similar POP, in a Rhymes With Orange cartoon, in introducing POPs: Fond memory foam bed is based on two two-word expressions, the A + N combination (a common […]

  16. Jack POP « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] phrasal overlap portmanteau (POP), with jack as the overlapping portion: lumber jack + jack-in-the-box. Hilary Price is fond of […]

  17. Three headlines « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] Steinbok also entertained the possibility that real-estate porn stars was a phrasal overlap portmanteau, or POP, combining the meanings of real-estate porn and porn stars. A theoretical possibility, but […]

  18. Horton and the detective mystery | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] Price is fond of phrasal overlap portmanteaus (POPs), as in this case: the Doctor Seuss title Horton Hears a Who overlapped with the odd compound […]

  19. POP goes the taxi | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] POP — phrasal overlap portmanteau — combining the clipped compound mani-pedi (a manicure plus a pedicure; see here) and the […]

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