Feuilleton: craplet

Come across in the December 6th Economist in a piece on jail-breaking mobile phones: “Others have done so to get rid of all the annoying craplets installed by their carrier.” The portmanteau craplet (crap + applet) was new to me, but it’s been around long enough for the magazine to print it without quotation marks — and there’s even Wikipedia coverage, in the article on pre-installed software.

Two notes: on portmanteaus and compounds; and on the specialization of meaning in craplet, which is a bit more than crap applet.

Portmanteaus and compounds. An old theme on this blog: portmanteaus and compounds are two ways of combining two words (or, more generally, two lexical items): in compounds, the parts are serially ordered; in portmanteaus, they are superimposed on one another. In each case the semantics of the whole is a combination of the semantics of the parts (by one of a large number of combinatory schemes). N + N compound crap applet, portmanteau craplet.

Semantic specialization. Compounds in general often show semantic specialization. A poodle skirt isn’t just a skirt associated with poddles, but specifically one with a (representation of a) poodle on it, and in fact, according to NOAD2, ‘a long full skirt in a solid color with a chenille poodle on it, popular in the 1950s with bobbysoxers’. Portmanteaus are often similarly specialized, and the formal tightness in the combination of the parts invites viewing the semantics holistically, with even more specialization.

Craplet has been around only about seven years, but it seems to have come into the world with more specific meaning than ‘pre-installed software’. From the Wikipedia article:

Pre-installed software (also known as bundled software or crapware) is the software already installed and licensed on a computer or smartphone bought from an original equipment manufacturer (OEM).

… Craplets: Often new PCs come with pre-installed software which the manufacturer was paid to include but is of dubious value to the purchaser. Such unwanted pre-installed software and advertisements are derogatorily called “craplets” (a portmanteau of crap and applet) and crapware. In January 2007, an unnamed executive spokesman for Microsoft expressed concern that the Windows Vista launch might be damaged by poorly designed, uncertified third-party applications installed by vendors — “We call them craplets.” …Walter Mossberg, technology columnist for The Wall Street Journal, condemned “craplets” in two columns published in April 2007, and suggested several possible strategies for removing them.

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