Portmanteau news

Three portmanteau finds in recent days: cronut, vog, and Prancercise.

1. cronut. Now the craze in New York City. From ” ‘Cronut’ Fever Taking New York (And The Country) By Storm” in the Huffington Post (with extensive links to relevant sites, and a video):

We hope you’ve heard of the cronut by now. This donut-croissant hybrid, created by pastry chef Dominique Ansel of Dominique Ansel Bakery, is already trademarked, despite being around for less than a month. There’s a fan page for fellow cronut-lovers and cronut scalping has begun. To put it simply, people are obsessed with this creation.

For folks hoping to sample the pastry, they have to wait in line at the bakery. And they better get there early — cronuts sell out FAST. And apparently these pastries aren’t overhyped — reports from the food world are overwhelmingly positive.

In a picture:


The pronunciation of cronut seems to be straightforward: /kronət/, with primary accent on the first syllable and secondary accent on the second — so, just like crownut. I find this rather ugly, but there it is. And croissant is pretty much swallowed up in it, with only /kr/ surviving the combination with doughnut.

[Digression: the pronunciation of croissant in English. Here there is an enormous amount of variation, with English speakers going all the way from shifting into a full French pronunciation of the word and on through a variety of nativizations. All variants have an initial [k], an [s] at the beginning of the second syllable, and primary accent on the second syllable, but everything else is variable.

NOAD2’s pronunciation

k(r)wäˈsänt, -ˈsäN

abbreviates four variants, on two dimensions: the initial consonantal onset ([krw] as in French, or nativized to [kw] — but nativization to [kr] can also be heard) and the treatment of the final offset ([nt], from the spelling, or zero, with the preceding vowel nasalized — but [n] can also be heard). NOAD gives [a] as the vowel in both syllables, as in French, but other vowels can be heard: for the first vowel, [æ] or [ə]; for the second, [æ] or [ɔ]. The variants that are most distant from French are then probably

[krəˈsænt] or [kwəˈsænt]

For cronut, only [kr] survives; I haven’t heard anyone use [krw] or [kw]. Nor have I heard the word accented on the second syllable.]

[Digression: the macaron. Larry Horn noted on ADS-L yesterday the similar pastry the macaron, also very popular in New York City (and elsewhere). Cousin of the cronut. From Wikipedia:

A macaron [not to be confused with the macaroon] … is a sweet meringue-based confection made with eggs, icing sugar, granulated sugar, almond powder or ground almond, and food colouring. It is also called Luxemburgerli. The macaron is commonly filled with ganache, buttercream or jam filling sandwiched between two cookies. The name is derived from the Italian word macarone, maccarone or maccherone, the Italian meringue.

History: Although predominantly a French confection, there has been much debate about origins. Larousse Gastronomique cites the macaron as being created in 1791 in a convent near Cormery. Some have traced its French debut back to the arrival of Catherine de’ Medici’s Italian pastry chefs whom she brought with her in 1533 upon marrying Henry II of France.

In the 1830s, macarons were served two-by-two with the addition of jams, liqueurs, and spices. The macaron as it is known today, composed of two almond meringue discs filled with a layer of buttercream, jam, or ganache filling, was originally called the “Gerbet” or the “Paris macaron.” Pierre Desfontaines of the French pâtisserie Ladurée has sometimes been credited with its creation in the early part of the 20th century, but another baker, Claude Gerbet, also claims to have invented it.


2. vog. This one came up on Facebook yesterday, in a posting by Susan Fischer. From Wikipedia:

Vog is a form of air pollution that results when sulfur dioxide and other gases and particles emitted by an erupting volcano react with oxygen and moisture in the presence of sunlight. The word is a portmanteau of the words “volcanic”,”smog”, and “fog”. The term is in common use in the Hawaiian islands, where the Kīlauea volcano, on Hawaiʻi Island (aka “The Big Island”), has been erupting continuously since 1983. Based on June 2008 measurements, Kīlauea emits 2,000 – 4,000 tons of sulfur dioxide every day.

An ugly word for an ugly phenomenon.

3. Prancercise. This I stumbled on in the Huffington Post while searching for material on cronuts: “Prancercise: Joanna Rohrback’s Fitness Program Inspired By Horses”:

Joanna Rohrback invented Prancercise – “A springy, rhythmic way of moving forward, similar to a horse’s gait” – back in 1989, but it never caught on. Perhaps it’s because she was so ahead of her time that she created an exercise video you couldn’t follow unless you had some sort of portable video playback device. Such is the price of being a visionary

Fortunately, the world has finally caught up with Rohrback and we can all “stop talkin’ and do some walkin’.”.

(There’s a video.)

Prancercise (prance + exercise) obviously echoes dancercise. From NOAD2:

dancercise (also dancercize)  noun  a system of aerobic exercise using dance movements. ORIGIN 1960s: blend of dance and exercise.

In the same vein, also from NOAD2:

Jazzercise  noun trademark  a type of fitness training combining aerobic exercise and dancing to jazz music. ORIGIN 1970s: blend of jazz and exercise.

So many possibilities for dances (some of which might have been proposed), for example:

calypsocise / calypsercise, cloggercise, flamencocise / flamencercise, hulacise / hulercise, macarenacise / macarenercise limbocise / limbercise, polkacise / polkercise, rumbacise / rumbercise, salsacise / salsercise, sambacise / sambercise, swingercise, waltzercise

And some for types of music (like Jazzercise), for example:

bluesercise, punkercise, rappercise, reggaecise, rockercise

And more unlikely, on the phonological models of dancercise and prancercise:

financercise, glancercise, lancercise, romancercise, trancercise


4 Responses to “Portmanteau news”

  1. Stephen Turner (@sret) Says:

    I wouldn’t say that all English speakers put the stress on the second syllable of croissant. The stress on the final syllable of French words is (from my amateur observation) a distinctively American trait. In the UK, we stress the first syllable of croissant (and café, chocolat, …).

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      I should have recalled this difference between AmE and BrE in borrowing words from French: AmE is inclined to preserve final accent, BrE to nativize words by shifting to initial accent.

  2. Foodmanteaus | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] his Boston Globe blog on the 8th, Ben Zimmer tackles the cronut (which I too have posted about) — croissant + doughnut — and food portmanteaus more […]

  3. Hybrid dishes and foodmanteaus | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] — and even France, where you’d think diners would be fussier. [On cronuts on this blog, see here and […]

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