Two cases of portmanteaus with aviation fly- as the first element in the news: flytilla and flyjin. And then, as a bonus, Flyzilla, with fly the insect.

1. flytilla. This is fly (the verb) + flotilla, now in the news as journalists’ name for a protest by Palestinians flying in to Tel Aviv (parallel to protests by sea, in a flotilla). From the Christian Science Monitor story:

Israel dismisses ‘flytilla’ protest, pointing to human rights abuses in Syria, Iran

Israel denied entry and deported several dozen pro-Palestinian activists who flew into Tel Aviv’s airport on Sunday, arguing they are missing the bigger regional issues.

There was a similar flytilla last year.

(Hat tip to Victor Steinbok.)

2. flyjin. This is half English (the verb fly) and half Japanese (gaijin ‘foreigner, non-Japanese’). Passed on last May on ADS-L by Amy West: a CNNGo column of 4/15/11 by Richard Smart:

A word that doesn’t fly
10 reasons to ditch the divisive ‘flyjin’ and move on

In the wake of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan, many people chose to leave Tokyo. Those people became known as “flyjin.” Well, I say it’s time for the name calling to stop

From the Wikipedia entry on gaijin:

Foreigners and the English-language media in Japan coined the term “flyjin” (or fly-jin), a play on the word gaijin, as a label for the non-Japanese who fled Japan in the wake of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. Approximately 531,000 non-Japanese in Japan departed the country after the disaster.

Smart’s 10 objections to flyjin are mostly silly, turning especially on the belief that the label should be a definition, so that the word would cover only foreigners fleeting by plane. But two are linguistic:

2. The term was invented by foreigners

According to the website, flyjin is, “not a Japanese word and not familiar to or used by Japanese… flyjin was coined by English-speaking Twitter users.”…

9. The word gaijin has a stigma attached to it

… Among a host of factors, ridding Japan of foreign stigmatization is connected to language, and getting the word gaijin away from linguistic and cultural prominence can only help to rid the nation of racism. As such, a term like flyjin should be dumped.

On #2, I don’t see anyone claiming that the word is Japanese, and it certainly isn’t phonologically well-formed in Japanese. But Japanese is packed with loan words from English, so its foreign origin would be no objection to it — except that the Japanese version would be something like furaijin. As it stands, the word is English, albeit with one part of it borrowed from Japanese.

#9 is weightier. I’ve consulted a couple of Japanese linguists, and they report that the usage status of gaijin is complex and variable, not nearly as simple as Smart makes out. The Wikipedia entry gives the analysis of the word and summarizes the attitudes about its use:

Gaijin (外人 …) is a Japanese word meaning “non-Japanese”, or “alien”. The word is composed of two kanji: gai (外), meaning “outside”; and jin (人), meaning “person”. Thus, the word technically means “outsider”. There are similarly composed words to refer to foreign things such as Gaisha meaning foreign car, Gaika meaning foreign cash, and Gaitame meaning foreign exchange, all of them are common words. The word can refer to nationality, race, or ethnicity, but in Japanese these are generally conflated.

Some modern commentators feel that the word is now negative or pejorative in connotation and thus offensive. Other observers indicate that the word can also be used neutrally or positively. One scholar suggests that the term has become politically incorrect and is avoided now by some Japanese television broadcasters. The uncontroversial gaikokujin (外国人), “foreign-country person”, is commonly used instead, and middle-aged women tend to use “Gaikoku no kata” , “person of foreign country”.

… Historically, some usage of the word “gaijin” referred respectfully to the prestige and wealth of Caucasians or the power of western businesses. This interpretation of the term as positive or neutral in tone continues for some. However, though the term may be used without negative intent by many Japanese speakers, it is seen as derogatory by some and reflective of exclusionary attitudes.

“While the term itself has no derogatory meaning, it emphasizes the exclusiveness of Japanese attitude and has therefore picked up pejorative connotations that many Westerners resent.” Mayumi Itoh (1995)

The term is avoided by mainstream Japanese media whenever possible. Now that gaijin has become somewhat politically incorrect, it is common to refer to non-Japanese as gaikokujin. However if the honorific san is attached to the word Gaijin as Gaijin-san, some see it as a friendly expression.

So flyjin is problematic for some English speakers familiar with the status of gaijin in Japanese.

3. Flyzilla. This one is a step away from a fresh portmanteau, involving the libfix –zilla; see “Portmanteau to libfix”, here, where I note that it connotes “size, significance, awesomeness, or fearsomeness”. So Flyzilla is one monster of a fly (with the noun fly). Two cites:

Last saturday I was getting ready to take a shower. I was in the bathroom and I had just shaved my face. Then I took off my clothes and was about to get in the shower when I heard a strange noise. It sounded almost like a fly but it was louder somehow. I glanced around to see the source of this noise and that’s when I saw it.


Biggest fly in the world. It had to have been. It flew around like it was half crazed. It wanted my blood, I could sense it. (link)

This evening Flyzilla, made famous by his appearance in the world-renown blog “In the Blink of an Eye”, met an untimely death.  His death was expected at least two or three days ago, making his demise today long overdue.

Flyzilla lived a full life and had an extended reign of terror in Casa de Raehl for at least three weeks.  While pausing for a brief rest from buzzing loudly about while the children were going to bed Flyzilla was pinned between a sneaker and the bathroom mirror in the land of Upper Bathroomonia. (link)

Fearsome Flyzilla.


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