Monday, January 19, 2009

Malcompound Words

Following the wild BYU victory over Washington, where a questionable excessive celebration penalty contributed to Washington missing a key extra point, an extremely-excited Lou Holtz described the outcome as "a shamesty". Presumably he thought it was both a sham and a travesty, but in his 140/80 condition he couldn't articulate either word clearly. Since that time, I've come across a number of other instances of these malcompounds, and I've come to enjoy them as a distinct linguistic phenomenon.

A few weeks ago, I read a financial report describing the surprisingly weak condition of a certain company as "abherrent," which could be just a typo, but which I interpreted as meaning something that's both aberrant and abhorrent. There certainly ought to be a word like that, and now there is.

And today there was a commentator who described tomorrow's presidential inauguration as "monumentous," which is a great combination of monumental and momentous. And she's right!


Mithridates said...

Welcome indeed, Whitecollar Redneck. Your first post is definitely a monumentous (spell check doesn't like this word) occasion. In my last week of consulting before grad school, one of the partners wrote to the firm that I was surely going to miss working with such an "austere" group.

Now austere is definitely a word. But I don't think it's what he was going for. He clearly meant a malcompound of "august", "esteemed", and "revered".

Phutatorius said...

A friend of mine likes to throw around the word "balarkey." I'm not sure I transcribed it correctly: it could as easily be "bullarkey" ("malarkey" with a "bullshit" enhancement") as "balarkey" (a "baloney"/"malarkey" hybrid).

Phutatorius said...

CNNSI just described LeBron James as a "speciman." Probably a typo, but Cavs fans could make the case LBJ is both a "specimen" and a "special man."

Phutatorius said...


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