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?


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