Friday, August 1, 2008

Blended Words

Recently I've noticed how many blended words seem to be appearing via the media. Something I read about the Flickr website which referred to the "Flickrverse" got me started. Flickr certainly is its own universe, so the word appealed to me. Next was the word "staycation", seen in the July 20 New York Times. I have enjoyed plenty of staycations myself. There's nothing like a week at home away from the workplace! Staycations have rejuvenated me any number of times.

I don't like blended words if their meaning is not immediately apparent. "Scuppie" for instance - said to mean a socially conscious urban professional (I had to look it up). The word itself sounds like something you'd use to scrape barnacles off a boat.

How about "Christmahanukwanzaa"? It's more of a joke than anything, but it still seems to be going strong. It may have started as a put down on social correctness, but it has become handy in a multicultural way. "McMansion" was coined as far back as 1990, referring to large, opulent cookie cutter houses.

I learned a new bicycle-related blended word: "fixie". I own a fixie but never knew so: it signifies a fixed wheel bicycle with single gear pedals chained to the rear wheel. You can't pop the wheel off. Fixies are popular amongst bicycle messengers in Manhattan, probably due to their sturdiness.

Research on blended words took me to some interesting websites. WordSpy keeps a running list of new words. And I found out that Rice University maintains a Neologisms database. Some of the words collected there are said to be particular only "within the hedges" of Rice University. An example would be the word "dingle", meaning a college dorm room meant to house two students, instead occupied by one.

The word "murketing" seems to be everywhere lately. Read this post from the What Is? website for a discussion of its murky meaning. I noticed a reference to the word in a July 27, 2008 New York Times Book Review article. Murketing can be non-obvious, a kind of sly branding that goes beyond even product placement in movies. Building a buzz is a big part of murketing - getting people talking about your product. Red Bull, for instance, sponsors many dance and kiteboarding competitions. Pabst Beer does not flash its logo at the skateboarding events it pays for, etc. You won't find celebrities in any murketing campaigns. The meaning of "murketing" falls on the negative side of the advertising spectrum, when I'm not sure its practices are really any worse than more obviously commercial efforts.

"Walkshed" is a good blended word, meaning the area that can conveniently be reached from a fixed geographical point, such as your home or office. I've mentioned WalkScore in a previous post, and the idea of living or working in a walkable neighborhood only seems more relevant as the gas price crisis continues.

A few more blended words: "Kindergarchy" meaning being ruled or dominated by your children. "Groceraunt" meaning a grocery store and sit-down restaurant combined, an example being the Whole Foods store in Scottsdale, Arizona. There are plenty of blended words describing the new and trendy dog crossbreeds such as "labradoodle" and "schnoodle". Blended words can be fun.

Many blended words survive the faddish slang/idiomatic stage and pass over into the mainstream language. Case in point: the word "blog". Once "blog" was a new word, contracted from "web" and "log". And now here it is, both a noun and a verb, a word that sounds a perhaps a tad abrupt, but one I'm rather fond of. Also there are many related words, such as "blogosphere", which seems to get across a bit of the bloatedness of the blogging world. On that note, enough said!

graphic by KAO - a Blended Words Wordle Cloud

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