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:

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

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  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. […]

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  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 […]

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    […] 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 […]

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