Archive for the ‘Blends’ Category

The predictable blend error

March 24, 2020

It was bound to happen: the parts of

COVID-19 and coronavirus

were going to get mixed, to yield


And, yes, then we see ravens, ravens of death.


Briefly noted: a syntagmatic blending

July 29, 2018

Beth Huizenga, reading the weather report on KQED-FM (in San Francisco) this morning:

morning drog … uh … fog and drizzle

The textbook inadvertent syntagmatic error here would have been the telescoping frizzle (since fog apparently preceded drizzle in the printed report). The suppression of the and is not so surprising, since similar suppressions occur in some of the telescopings Vicki Fromkin collected in the appendix to her Speech Errors as Linguistic Evidence (1973): shrig souffle < shrimp and egg souffle, prodeption of speech < production and perception of speech.

But the ordering is odd. In fact, drog looks like a textbook inadvertent paradigmatic error, a blend of two items competing for the same slot in production. So, an interesting mixed case.



Hybrid referent, portmanteau name

July 24, 2018

On the NPR word game quiz show Says You! broadcast by KQED-FM on Sunday afternoon (the 22nd): a “bluff round” over the word flumpet. One team of panelists is offered three definitions for the word from the other team, in this case (paraphrasing, since I can’t find the podcast of the original):

1: a lard-based dumpling (no doubt suggested by the /ʌmp/ and the /l/ in flumpet and dumpling)

2: a frowsy (or frowzy), loose woman, and by extension flowers that are wilted, no longer fresh (no doubt suggested by a rhyming association of flumpet with strumpet)

3: a musical instrument combining a flugelhorn and a trumpet (a portmanteau of the words flugelhorn and trumpet, which share the letter U in their spelling: FL – U – MPET)

The three panelists on the other team were each given a card; one card had a definition for flumpet from some reputable source, and the other two said BLUFF. These panelists were given some time, during a musical interlude, to make up plausible definitions. Then the first panel had to decide which definition was the right one.


Today’s idiom blend

July 13, 2017

An exchange reported on Facebook this morning, by one of the participants, EF:

JK: It’s a matter of which came first, the horse or the egg.
EF: [stares at him] Do you realize what you just said?
JK: [long silence] This is going to end up in a Facebook post, isn’t it?
EF: Yes. Yes it is.

Meanwhile, don’t put the cart before the chicken.


Annals of blending: a raucus

May 3, 2017

From Max Vasilatos on Facebook today:

Wow how psyched am I to have new neighbors who’ve been causing a raucus for the past week.

I noted the noun raucus and speculated that it was some combination of the adjective raucous and the noun ruckus. Turns out it was an inadvertent blend, a slip of the fingers.


Idiom blends, with wine and roses

October 26, 2016

Yesterday’s Doonesbury, with Lacey and Jeremy in the senior dating scene:

Wonderful idiom blends (also mixed metaphors): march to a different kettle of fish (march to a different drummer + a different kettle of fish), have both sails in the water (have both oars in the water + have the wind in one’s sails), play with a full house of cards (play with a full deck (of cards) + a full house (in poker) + house of cards).

The miracle of the penises

October 4, 2013

In the NYT on the 2nd, in “To Venezuelans, Heir of Chávez Is a Poor Copy” by William Neuman, this anecdote:

In one of his most infamous verbal flubs, in August, [Venezuelan president Nicolás] Maduro sought to make a reference to the biblical story of Jesus’ multiplying the loaves and fishes — only to have it come out of his mouth as “the multiplication of the penises.” Mr. Maduro apparently conflated “peces” (fish) and “panes” (loaves) to produce “penes” (penises). He quickly apologized and corrected himself, but the damage was done.

“A person who doesn’t know how to speak will never know how to run a country,” said Jorge Flores, 30, a messenger at a government-run hospital, who voted for Mr. Maduro but now bitterly regrets doing so.

A perfectly ordinary inadvertent blend, but one with an especially laughable result.

Peter and Paul

March 5, 2013

Bartender R at 3 Seasons in Palo Alto, on February 23rd:

That would be robbing Peter to Paul Mary.

A complex error, in which one fixed expression, the proper name Peter, Paul, and Mary, interferes with the production of another sort of fixed expression, the idiom to rob Peter to pay Paul. The two expressions share the parts Peter and Paul (in that order), so R’s error is an inadvertent blend of the two.


Brief mention: a racy sandwich blend

November 27, 2012

Michael Krasny, on KQED’s news and public affairs program Forum this morning, interviewed SFSU philosophy professor Jacob Needleman about his recent book “An Unknown World”. Krasny set the stage by summarizing Needleman’s work and his credentials. Along the way, we got Krasny saying:

He’s also genital … general editor of the Penguin Metaphysical Library.

I don’t see anything in the context that would have set this off — but it’s a nice example of an inadvertent sandwich blend, with a piece of one contributor sandwiched in between pieces of the other.


Brief mention: toolbook

November 7, 2012

An NBC news analyst, reporting on the U.S. Presidential election last night:

We need to look at our toolbook — I mean our toolbox, our playbook…

A blend of two (somewhat) idiomatic compounds, conveniently identified for us in the speaker’s own correction.

Note that the contributors to the blend are very similar in structure: both are N + N compounds, both Ns are monosyllables, and box and book are already very similar phonologically. General principle:

The greater the degree of morphological and phonological similarity, the more likely semantically similar items are to interfere with one another in blends.

Related blends: pitchfork from pitch pipe + tuning fork (from a musician); rocket surgery from rocket science + brain surgery (dismissively, in contexts like It’s not ___); jerry-rigged from jerry-built + jury-rigged; heart-wrenching from heart-breaking + gut-wrenching; Achilles’ tooth from Achilles’ heel + sweet tooth.

And note that toolbook also exists as a deliberate portmanteau, presumably of toolbox and handbook:

ToolBook is a Microsoft Windows programming environment, released in 1990 by Asymetrix Corporation (later known as click2learn and SumTotal Systems). In that day ToolBook was a competitor to Visual Basic as a programming environment. Over the years ToolBook has been enhanced to allow for the creation of web-based (HTML) content as well. (link)