Thursday, August 11, 2011


What the Heck is a Streptonym?

It has nothing to do with germs...

One of my recent gags for Dan Piraro's comic Bizarro was based on a form of wordplay where two phrases are linked by a common word to form a new, surprising combination:
Last month, Dan did another comic using this same device, linking three famous names to create a rather frightening imaginary creature:
I quite like both comics, and have encountered (and used) the same form of wordplay many times. I wondered what it might be called, and was unable to find a satisfying answer. It's not a pun, a spoonerism, or a malapropism. What is it exactly?

Jeopardy uses it in a category they call "Before & After." While descriptive, I find the name to be lacking elegance. The Website wordnik calls these constructions "sweet tooth fairies." This also feels flat, as it simply uses an example of a thing to name the thing.

So, I've come up with my own name for a sequential mashup of unrelated phrases: streptonym

This neologism combines the Greek prefix strepto-, which means "bent," "twisted," or "resembling a twisted chain," with the suffix -onym, meaning "name" or "word" (also from the Greek). In addition to describing the technique, it utilizes it, with the common letter o as the linkage point. Taking a small liberty with the definition of "twisted," a good streptonym should also have a humorous twist.

Initially, I used the plural form, as the term refers to a series of words, but now I prefer the singular (streptonym) to refer to the chain of words as a unit.

I could find no earlier occurrences of the word streptonym online, so—at least for now—I'm claiming it as my creation. Are you listening, Oxford Dictionaries?

Now, I'm off to breakfast. I might give in to the temptation to try Forbidden Froot Loops.


borky said...

Both examples of ingeniousness if not genius!

Ray Avito said...

Clever thinking with the new word, I like it.

ssprince said...

great wordling