Another round of repropriation

In the last installment, we looked at an example of a verb repropriate intended to convey ‘reproduce, procreate’ — an error I suggested was an approximation to reproduce, probably blended with portions of other verbs. On ADS-L, Joel Berson proposed (not entirely seriously) a simple blend of reproduce and propagate — not a bad idea, but imperfect syntactically and phonologically. Garson O’Toole offered the image of a stew [amendment 10/28: Garson reminds me that Larry Horn used the image first, and that Garson picked it up from him], with ingredients from several different sources. And then, in a comment from Éamonn McManus:

“Make up your mind that you will say both words, but leave it unsettled which you will say first.” It seems to me that squishing together reproduce and procreate would be enough, but We May Never Know.

So: just two contributors, but with their parts combined in complex ways, more complex than the bulk of blends. This turns out to be a very attractive idea.

Before I get to the analysis of repropriate as a blend, some notes on its use. There are a fair number of examples of repropriate as a prefix error for reappropriate or appropriate (sometimes as V and sometimes as Adj, with different accent patterns). But the example in my previous posting, with repropriate as an error for reproduce (or procreate), is by no means isolated. Four more (admittedly, the writers are not great stylists):

By the year 2020 I have heard that the Chinese will actually own the USA and that the Muslim faith will be the dominate faith in the world, including the USA. Why you ask? Non-museum [sic] families repropriate at 1.7 and Muslim families repropriate at an average of 7. (link)

even if there is only eve and adam left on this planet, we can repropriate and make more little adam and eve clones!. (link)

i didnt think you knew how to do anything else but garden. and eventually repropriate at the rate of speed equivalent only to rabbits. (link)

And making a blank statement that somone has “spiritual urges”, implying that it is somehow an internal process like hunger and the urge to repropriate. (link)

Now to blends. In the simplest inadvertent blends and intentional portmanteaus, there are two contributors, and the combination has the first part of one and the second part of the other. The portmanteau brunch is as simple as they come:

item 1:   br  +  (ɛkfǝst)
item 2:  (l)  +  Ʌnʧ
result:   br  +  Ʌnʧ

(Parentheses enclose the material that is suppressed, or lost, in the combination.)

Somewhat more complex, and very common, is the overlapping combination, as for the portmanteau motel:

item 1:   m  + ot + (ǝr) 
item 2:  (h) + ot + ɛl 
result:   m  + ot + ɛl

Here, the contributors share the material /ot/, which appears in the result; as in the simpler case, the final part of the first contributor and the initial part of the second are suppressed.

Now look at repropriate, the proposed first contributor reproduce, and the potential second contributors propagate and procreate. Repropriate shares with reproduce a long initial chunk /ripr/ (/ripro/ if you allow /riprod(j)us/ as an alternative for reproduce). So the full set of possible initial contributions from reproduce that have a syllabic is /ri  rip  ripr  ripro/

At the other end of repropriate, shared with both propagate and procreate, is the final part /et/, a common suffixal element in English, but in the case of procreate, the longer chunk /riate/. So the full set of possible final contributions from propagate that have a syllabic is only /et / (the /g/ is the limiting factor), but from procreate it’s /et  iet  riet/. The possible simple blends of reproduce and propagate are then reate, repate, reprate, and reproate. For reproduce and procreate the simple blends are reate, reiate, reriate, repate, repiate, repriate, reprate, repriate, reproate, reproiate, and reproriate.

No home runs there, but several of the possibilities are close: reproate for both propagate and procreate is just a pri /pri/ away, and repriate for procreate is just a pro /pro/ away. Neither /pri/ nor /pro/ has a clear source in propagate, but both have possible sources in procreate — /pro/ is the first syllable of procreate, and /pri/ is a blend of the first two syllables, /pro/ and /kri/ (with /r/ as the overlap).

The point is that with procreate as the second contributor, all the parts of repropriate have a source in the two contributors, even though the word can’t be seen as a simple blend of them — but it can be seen as a “squishing together” of them, as Éamonn McManus suggested.

One Response to “Another round of repropriation”

  1. Warren Brewer Says:

    The second [p] in _repropriate_ is the crux. Maybe it’s the result of a sociolinguistic factor, such as euphemistic deformation, since reproduction has traditionally been a tabu area. When I was a teenager ages ago, my father intimated to me in hushed tones that my mother had “cancer of the [OH-duh-reez]”. Discussing with me the C-word and ovaries caused him great discomfort. [v] > [d].

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