Sometimes a word is formed by blending two words together. For example, the word motel was formed as motor hotel. This week we’ll look at some of these “blend words”. We’ll begin with one which, fitting last week’s theme, is a word that I learned recently. In fact, just a few day ago.
splog – (from spam blog): a fake blog, without meaningful content, set up to attract hits to generate advertising revenue or Google-ranking
A splog, though unreadable, is seeded with words that will attract Google ads. A computer-user may be annoyed at finding himself staring at a screen full of gibberish but click on an ad anyway, allowing the robot blogger to harvest revenue. This sleight of hand has the Numerati hard at work getting their software to distinguish between a blog and a splog.
– Wall Street Journal, Sept. 14, 2008, reviewing The Numerati by Stephen Baker
Isn’t splog a fun-sounding word? (Many blend-words have a funny sound to them: splog, smog, blotch, jounce, twirl, skuzzy, slosh and grungy.) So is today’s word. It was at first a verb, meaning “to squirm and wriggle”, but is now mostly used as a noun.
squiggle – a small wiggly mark or scrawl (verb: to squirm and wriggle)
– Geraldine Brooks, People of the Book
verb use (ellipses omitted): [Wal-mart founder Sam] Walton added the practice of leading his own company cheer. “Gimme a W!” he’d shout. “W!” the workers would shout back, and on through the Wal-Mart name. At the hyphen, Walton would shout “Gimme a squiggly!” and squat and twist his hips at the same time; the workers would squiggle right back.
– Bob Ortega, In Sam We Trust [slightly different etymology here? <wink> ]
Odd. I wonder why he descibed a hyphen as a sqiggle? It's a straight line. Or did the company use the ~ instead in its logo (Wal~Mart rather than Wal-Mart)?
Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
It's a dash on each of the fourteen within a mile of my house.
Give a man a fish and he can eat for one day; give a man a fishing pole and he will find an excuse to never work again.
Nollidj is power.
Can the funny sound of a blend-word cause its meaning to change? When Lewis Carroll coined the word galumph, he apparently meant “to gallop in triumph”; "to prance about in a self-satisfied manner." But the word has a lumbering, clumsy sound, and perhaps that explains its newer meaning.
galumph – to move in a clumsy, ponderous, or noisy manner [in 1st quote, a noun]
But, while you could never call her nimble, she chased around the [tennis] court with an energetic galumph …
– Telegraph, June 25, 2008
Half a hundred elephants galumph around the ring and take a bow in unison.
– Time Magazine, Apr. 21, 1941
the older sense; still in use:
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.
– Lewis Carroll, Jabberwocky (1872)
The Triumphal Galumph of Dr. Seuss
– Washington Post (headline), Sept. 26, 1991
“He’s a blithering idiot!”
I’d long known the phrase, and had thought that the “blithering” was just a word to add emphasis, just like saying, “He’s a f_cking idiot!” Not so. To blither has a very specific and useful meaning, and is completely apt in that phrase.
blither – to make long and rambling talk, without sense; to blather (noun: such talk)
Some dictionaries it’s from Old Norse; some say from Scots, and some suggest a blending of blather and dither. But does it mean “too much talk” [blathering] or “too much talk and not enough action” [dithering]? All the dictionaries say the former, and they are probably right, but a few quotes include a sense of dithering. Here’s one.
– National Review, Our Blithering World: Where’s the vision and leadership?, Feb.1, 2007
mocktail – [mock + cocktail] a cocktail with no alcohol
– David Sedaris, Naked (ellipses omitted)
cyborg – [cyber- + organism] a person [or animal] whose physical abilities are extended beyond normal limitations, [or are controlled,] by elements implanted into the body
The dictionary definitions are a bit more narrow. I added the bracketed words, based on quotes such as this one.
– New Scientist, March 6, 2008 (ellipses omitted)
You sure hear a lot about staycations these days.
You won’t find this word much in the published press, but I gather it’s well-known, throughout the US, among those who attended college within the last decade.
sexile – to banish one’s roommate from the dorm room, so that one have privacy there for sex with one's partner
– Laura Sessions Stepp, Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love and Lose at Both