Pairmanteaus

Reported by Victor Steinbok yesterday on ADS-L, this headline from the Christian Science Monitor:

As Sarkozy seeks new term, French are wary of ‘Merkozy’

That’s a portmanteau of Merkel and Sarkozy, to refer to the pair {Angela Merkel, Nicolas Sarkozy} — a pairmanteau in the tradition of Billary ‘{Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton}’, Brangelina ‘{Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie}’, and many others.

The story:

An embattled French President Nicolas Sarkozy is touting his strong ties with powerful German chancellor Angela Merkel as he prepares to announce his bid for a second term today.

The Parisian satirical weekly Canard Enchaine ran a cartoon on Feb. 8 of Merkel saying to Sarkozy, “Are you sure? I’m not very popular in France.” To which Sarkozy retorts, “Neither am I.”

Merkel and Sarkozy have vastly different styles and were originally dubbed “the odd couple” after Sarkozy’s election in 2007. But as their views on the eurozone converged in the past two years, they’ve instead become known as “Merkozy.”

Postwar France, as Harvard University professor Stanley Hoffmann has argued, is obsessed with two things: fear of decline and fear of Germany. Sarkozy’s enlistment of Merkel addresses both.

Portmanteaus come in various flavors. As I said in connection with fleafestation for flea infestation, here:

Many classic portmanteaus like smog are semantically parallel to dvandva, or copulative, compounds (smoke-fog ‘something that’s both smoke and fog’). Others are semantically like composites that have been “telescoped”: gaydar corresponding to gay radar ‘radar for gay people, radar to detect gay people’, guyliner corresponding to guy eyeliner ‘eyeliner for guys (to use)’.

Two more telescoped portmanteaus: cannabusiness for cannabis business (here), beautorium for beauty emporium (here). (It’s not always easy to tell whether the source of a particular portmanteau is telescoping or coordination. Heebster (here) could be a telescoping of Hebrew hipster or a coordination of Hebrew and hipster; similarly for brewstaurant (here), which could be a telescoping of the copulative compound brewery restaurant or an independent coordination of brewery and restaurant. From the point of view of semantics, the question is moot.)

Copulative portmanteaus come in several subtypes, corresponding to different ways the coordinating conjunction and can be understood. In many cases, the semantics is of logical conjunction (&), as in smog. (But even here the components are not necessarily of equal weight. OED2 and NOAD2 both treat smog as a type of fog: ‘fog intensified by smoke’ (OED), ‘fog or haze combined with smoke and other atmospheric pollutants’ (NOAD)). In some cases, the combination of referents is akin to chemical compounding: a nectaplum (here) isn’t both a nectarine and a plum, but a hybrid of the two (similarly, tigons and ligers, etc. here).

And then there’s set-theoretic union of the referents, as in Merkozy. Here’s Ben Zimmer on name blends (i.e., name portmanteaus) in 2005:

When people’s names are blended, it often indicates the inseparability of the two blendees. Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee famously bellowed “Woodstein!” when he had difficulty distinguishing the young reporting team of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. The ascension of Bill and Hillary Clinton to the White House saw the popularization of Billary — once used endearingly (as in the 1992 campaign when Hillary was using the line, “Buy one, get one free”), but later made pejorative by opponents who ridiculed the idea of a “co-presidency.” More recently, we’ve had a rash of blends identifying celebrity couples: Bennifer, Brangelina, TomKat.

But as with &-type portmanteaus (like smog), sometimes the referents are not of equal weight. Here’s Ben Zimmer on Scalito, understood as referring to Justice Samuel Alito by comparison to Justice Antonin Scalia:

Scalito is a different kind of onomastic blend: an epithet combining elements of two names to suggest a resemblance of one named person to the other. In recent American political history, such blends have been almost uniformly derogatory. Some examples:

  • Kerredy (used by the right to compare John Kerry to Ted Kennedy)
  • McStarrthy (used by the left to compare Kenneth Starr to Joseph McCarthy)
  • Hitlery/Hitlary (used by the right to compare Hillary Clinton to Hitler)
  • Bushitler (used by the left to compare George W. Bush to Hitler — a possible play on bullshitter?)

(On other understandings of Scalito, see here. And more on disparaging name-portmanteaus here.)

At the moment, Merkozy seems to be relatively neutral in affect — though of course the way particular people use it will depend on their attitude towards the pairing of these two political figures.

 

2 Responses to “Pairmanteaus”

  1. Zmanteaus « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] pairmanteau (link) […]

  2. On the portmanteau watch: Boston, coyotes | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] In some cases, the combination of referents is akin to chemical compounding: a nectaplum ['nectarine plum'] (here) isn’t both a nectarine and a plum, but a hybrid of the two (similarly, tigons and ligers, etc. here). (link) […]

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