The snow border collie

🐇🐇🐇 It was 8/30, and the comic strip Mother Goose and Grimm went POP!, exploded in a phrasal overlap portmanteau, the one in the title:

(with the snow-sliding dog seen doing an airborne trick in the second panel of the strip).

Not your everyday POP, because it works straightforwardly in pronunciation but works only imperfectly in spelling:

snowboarder + border collie = snow border collie

Distinct spellings, boarder vs. border, homophones in both AmE and BrE (but see below).

The contributors to the POP. First, the compound noun and verb snowboard, and the derivative noun snowboarder, seen in my 3/23/13 posting “Snowboard Zippy”, featuring a snowboarding Zippy spouting snowboarder slang.

Then the compound noun border collie. Border collies have been mentioned many times on this blog, but have a special place here because of the utility of the name border collie in POPs. Three POPpearances:

— in my 6/13/10 posting “The commencement pun crop”:

[Simon] Drew 2003 [Spot the Author: Uninterrupted Nonsense] has herbaceous border collie (a phrasal overlap portmanteau)

— in my 4/28/17 posting “Friday word play in the comics”, a Bizarro cartoon with

Doctors Without Borders + border collies = Doctors Without Border Collies

plus discussion of border collies, with photos (note the disregard for the borders / border difference for the purposes of the joke; and for that matter, the disregard for the distinction between Borders as part of the proper name Doctors Without Boarders and the common noun border in border collie; the point is that identity for the purposes of POP formation is a flexible notion — so we might be prepared to entertain boarder and border as identical).

— in my 10/9/19 posting “Two old cartoon friends”, a Scott Hilburn cartoon with Doctors Without Border Collies (but with a different understanding of without: in the 2017 posting, the doctors lack needed dogs, to get sheep out of their office; in the 2019, the doctors lack desired dogs, to keep them company)

The homophony issue. Most Americans have border and boarder as homophones, with accented nucleus [ɔr]; British RP (Received Pronunciation) also has them as homophones, with accented nucleus [ɔ:] (though Scottish varieties generally distinguish them). So it will come as a surprise to many that in John Wells’s keyword system for classifying English vowels, they belong to two different lexical sets in GenAm (General American): NORTH, with [ɔr] (with open, lower, laxer [ɔ]), for border; but FORCE, with [or] (with close, higher, tenser [o]), for boarder.

Now, in fact, most Americans have their NORTH and FORCE vowel nuclei merged, in favor of NORTH [ɔr]. However, Southern varieties generally preserve the distinction: for, or, war, horse, morning, and border have NORTH [ɔr], while four, oar, wore, hoarse, mourning, and boarder have FORCE [or]. (In GenAm, [ɔ] is the THOUGHT vowel, as in taught / taut, gnaw, saw; while [o] is the GOAT vowel, as in tote, no / know, so / sew / sow.)

(I lived for over 20 years with a Southern speaker, Ann Daingerfield Zwicky (who grew up in central Kentucky and went to school in Mississippi and southern Virginia), who certainly distinguished her NORTH and FORCE nuclei, but had to live with people like me, who had the “wrong” (from her standpoint) nuclei in FORCE words and who failed utterly to appreciate her NORTH vs. FORCE distinction. Fortunately, the functional load of the NORTH – FORCE distinction is quite small — it is rarely crucial in discriminating words in context — so it wasn’t a source of household misunderstandings.)

In any case, for those Southern speakers with NORTH and FORCE nuclei distinct, the MGG cartoon’s POP involves what is essentially an imperfect pun, with [bɔrdǝr] standing for both border and boarder. But imperfect puns are no big thing, and in fact many jokesters think they exhibit more cleverness than perfect puns (while others applaud perfect puns because they’re more subtle). So we can all smile at the POP, regardless of our dialect.


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