Category Archives: commentary

The Spawn of Brexit

We posed another question on Facebook:

Brexit is another hastily-contrived portmanteau, followed, I see, by a theoretical “Grexit.” But what if Germany leaves? Will it be a “Gexit” or “Dexit”? How about the Netherlands or Italy? Here’s your challenge, which will be featured in a Lexicide article: come up with portmanteau “leave” terms for each EU state. No points for “Finnish.”

The responses, like the Brits’ feelings over Brexit, were quick and strong. Erica, a Virginia-based designer, said: Czexit is really easy, but Czecede is fun. (Tom, an LA-based engineer, gleefully called out Czech, please!) Erica continued: Obviously, Latvacate. Goland? Andy, the Floridian pilot contributed Adiostria and Greeced Lightnin’. Gary, a playwright in NYC, offered Italeave, Latervia, and Belgone. Cannady, a NASA technical writer, wondered whence Lithuoutahere, Portugo, and And-out-the-dora before realizing Andorra is not in the EU. Erica came back with Republic of Byeprus, eliciting howls of derision from Otto, who wonders why the EU even admitted Cyprus, which is both geographically and politically of dubious European provenance.

So we had some fun playing with portmanteaux before Scott and Scott, both from Los Angeles and now banned from Lexicide (if I can figure out how), devolved the thread into a pun war involving defunct non-EU European nation-states. Fortunately, Lylah, a regular contributor and news magazine editor, pointed us to this Quartz article, but not before positing Outaly, The Neverlands, and Irelend.

And with that, we now make our Lexit.

Quartz: Possible names for EU exits for all members of the EU

Lexicide: The Portmanteau Word: It’s like a Turducken*!

Lexicide: From Death to “Bridezilla!”

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From The Wall Street Journal: How to Write Like Antonin Scalia

You’re reading that headline and now deciding whether to read an article celebrating the late conservative jurist. Stop deciding and read. Lexicide concerns itself only with words, meanings, and usage. We care not whether you are evangelical, atheist or socialist. We espouse neither utilitarianism nor political correctness. We are opinionated, yes, but only on the aforementioned topics. Besides, we link to this article because of its focus on words and how they change. That words have definitive meaning did inform Scalia’s thinking. On that, we can agree with him.

And besides that aside, the subject of this fascinating piece is not really Justice Scalia, but Bryan Garner, editor of Black’s Law Dictionary and Garner’s Modern English Usage. Ah, a man after our heart, and also a linguistic prescriptivist, as Lex and Otto are. Rather than a sourpuss elitist who frowns on “wrong” usage, Garner says of the term: “A correct definition, a more neutral definition, is somebody who thinks value judgments have a place in assessing language.”

Garner interviewed all the Supreme Court Justices, and this article cites not only Scalia’s brush with precision, but also Justices Kagan’s and Sotomayor’s opinions. Although the liberal justices are known for stretching the meanings of words to suit their goals, Scalia’s adherence to originalism has its perils, too. When confronted with a hypothetical passage revolving around nimrods, Scalia insisted that the classical, Biblical definition was the only one known:

When Mr. Garner posed that thought experiment, Justice Scalia reacted with disbelief. “He said, ‘There’s no way that anybody thinks a nimrod is anything other than a hunter.’ I said, ‘Your clerks, believe me,’ ” Mr. Garner recounts. “He called them in, one at a time, and just said, ‘What is a nimrod?’ And they would say things like ‘a dummy, an idiot.’ And he was aghast at this.”

So go the dangers of shifting language. What is a well regulated Militia? One that is sufficiently organized, trained, and equipped (1789 meaning) or one bound by statutory regulations (2016 meaning)?

Anyhow, read. It carries a caution for we prescriptivists that sometimes we can be caught with our robes down – and a story about Justice Kagan citing Zoolander in an opinion. Sorry, Scalia, you just can’t beat that. At least you introduced her to hunting. That makes you both nimrods.

Definition of Nimrod:



A disruptive innovation


DISRUPTIVE: “A disruptive innovation is an innovation that creates a new market and value network and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network, displacing established market leaders and alliances.” — Wikipedia entry for disruptive innovation

Hype. It’s what keeps me and other marketing folks in bread. But lest you heap all the blame for hype on your marketing department and ad agencies, consider this: the most prolific generator of hype is often the face in the mirror. You claim everything — your business process, your product, you yourself — is unique, bleeding edge, a sea change in the industry. I have attended meetings where executives demand plans to copy a successful competitor, then crow about how they’re going to disrupt the business firmament.

I suppose if you’re an early adopter of some disruptive innovation, you could lay claim to being a disruptor. The trouble is, everyone claims to be a disruptor. And Harvard Business Review has a problem with that:

In our experience, too many people who speak of “disruption” have not read a serious book or article on the subject. Too frequently, they use the term loosely to invoke the concept of innovation in support of whatever it is they wish to do. Many researchers, writers, and consultants use “disruptive innovation” to describe any situation in which an industry is shaken up and previously successful incumbents stumble. But that’s much too broad a usage.

Okay, this is a word site, not a business blog, so I’ll let you read up on what truly makes a disruptive model here, here, and here. The purpose of Lexicide is to showcase misuses of the word, such as this one:

Customer disdain for this ‘innovative and disruptive’ business model is only growing

Notice how carefully the quote avoids calling the subscription lingerie service a disruptive innovation. However, I’m sure Adore Me’s stakeholders were peeing in their panties with delight at the disruptive appellation. Ha. Anyone who lived through the Columbia House Record Club years knows how old the pay-each-month-because-you-forgot-to-cancel model is. Disruptive, my ass.

And anyhow, as the linked articles lay out, disruptive is not just plain old innovation. Like stakeholder and long tail, it has a specific, narrowly-defined business definition. Not that that will stop anyone from misusing the word.

Maybe it’s time we really disrupted the works. We could translate all our Powerpoint slides into Urdu. We could circulate all memos on cuneiform tablets. Or we could just correct our colleagues when they misuse words. Now that’s disruption I can support.

Otto E. Mezzo


Ambiguous headline makes debut

Lexicide reader Helen sent me this newspaper headline, which dates back to June, 2015. I can think of several words one might confuse with ambidextrous: ambivalent, ambiguous, even ambivert, The headline word the East Oregonian editor chose is not one of them.

Here’s some barely suppressed schadenfreude from the Daily News.

And here is the East Oregonian mea culpa.

– Otto E. Mezzo

P.S.: In case you wonder, amphi (Greek) and ambi (Latin) are indeed cognates. Both mean “double,” “both,” or “two” (amphi+biosdouble life, ambi+dexter = “both hands right”)

Spotted on the web: [Platform] Atheist

We have criticized agnostic as a synonym for disinterested, and if you disagree, you should read our article. True agnostics can be thoughtful and dedicated to their philosophy, so it’s a tad insulting to imply they just don’t care. My atheist friends might be even more offended that their belief is not only equated with agnosticism, but also with the same carelessness.

Platform AtheistNow, I know many people think agnosticism and atheism are the same, and to be sure, there is a term that covers both under one areligious umbrella: freethinker. But in case you didn’t know, an atheist (Greek a+theos = without god/gods) definitively rejects divinity, whereas an agnostic declares divinity is beyond our knowing. So an atheist is committed to a worldview — theoretically as committed as a good Christian, Jew, Muslim, Jain, Buddhist, or Zoroastrian.

In that light, being platform atheistic is not the same as being platform agnostic. While an atheist may not evangelize for a specific platform or method, she has a hard opinion, even if that opinion is no platform exists. You see the problem here. Not believing in God doesn’t halt your software development. Good luck if you eschew all operating systems.

So our opinion is this malapropism arises out of the (ignorant) confusion betwixt atheism and agnosticism. Or perhaps from the religious fervor with which some developers hew to their chosen platform. This comment on the thread seems to comport with the atheist’s view of the faithful:

Platform Atheist2

Just don’t blindly use words unless you know what they mean!

— Otto E. Mezzo

Screencraft: 50 Words and Phrases that Screenwriters Get Wrong

One of the Lexicide staff writers used to work in Hollywood as a script reader. No, don’t applaud. It’s a terribly unglamorous job, he says. (Okay, fine, it was me.) Assistants at large agencies and production companies look for any way to eliminate scripts in their tall stacks of submissions. One easy trick is to trash any screenplay that bears a misspelled word or incorrect punctuation mark — or maybe one of these malapropisms. Lexicide is proud to have covered mute pointshoe inand case and point. I would add change tact, which seems to carry the same crunky justification as free reign (“You’re letting the person have control, like a monarch, and you have to be tactful to change direction!”).

Inspired, I am now throwing out all memos or communications that misuse one or more of these phrases. Or if it doesn’t grab my interest in the first five pages. Come to think of it, what works for Hollywood would be a boom for corporations! Er, I mean boon.

Read the article:

The Portmanteau Word: It’s like a Turducken*!

You see it’s like a portmanteau—there are two meanings packed up into one word.
Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll

English is the world’s language, and it’s easy to see why. Maybe it’s British colonialism or American exceptionalism, but the way I see it, English is supreme because it’s so accommodating.** We have no Academy Anglaise shutting down innovation and forbidding loanwords. As a result, English is alive and vibrant, but it also festers with unorthodox orthography (courtesy of these foreign loanwords) and bad ideas gone horribly wrong.

No bad ideas

Among these “ideas” are portmanteau words. Such creations are especially rife in the world of marketing, because creativity is our job, I guess. For example, we’ve given birth to infomercial and infotainment, to which Lex has added irritainment (his own personal handiwork). Likewise, we have advertorial (I’ve written many of these), which is an advertisement masquerading as a feature article. Imagine my surprise to encounter badvertising —bad advertising. I think. Users of the word can’t quite agree what it means. If you’re going to encourage the free market, you’ll have to put up with periodic chaos:

Smarketing — but shouldn’t all marketing be smart marketing?

Threepeat — is still a repeat, thank you.

Permalancer — a permanent freelancer is still a freelancer. (By the way, a created word that doesn’t attempt to be a pun is a neolexic portmanteau.)

Decruiting — because we enjoyed rightsizing so much.

Cremains — cremated remains are also called “ashes,” a word that doesn’t invoke the callousness and fallen stomach this word does. Matt from Virginia (a journalist, not an undertaker), offered this word and comments, “It strikes me as one of those jargon terms that ought to remain in the shop and not be used with clients, and yet it is.”

Any formation with man (mansplain, mancriminate, manspreading) we’ve covered the idiocy of murse, meggings, and mandals. I concede the man words have an edge of misandry which makes them both telling and funny.

Any formation with mom — Stephanie also-from-Virginia writes: “Last night I heard one that made me cringe. Momager. It was in reference to Kris Jenner, which I think made it even more painful.” Agreed. More positive is momtrepreneur, but again, it’s redundant. Isn’t entrepreneur sufficient?

Sometimes, though, the coal vein produces diamonds. Three we like:

Procrasturbation — suggested by Erik in California. Since this is a family-friendly site, I’m going to assume it involves putting off productive work by navel-gazing.

Blamestorming — No explanation needed.

Portmanteau — Lewis Carroll created the lexical meaning, but he didn’t create the word. It already existed in English to describe a suitcase for clothing, made by combining the French porter (to carry) and manteau (cloak) in other words, portmanteau is itself a portmanteau. Now that’s meta. Cue Xzibit!

— Otto E. Mezzo

*Because I used the word, here is a turducken.

**English is by no means the king of compound words. That distinction likely goes to German (and also Dutch), which has no beef about stringing together endless trains of words to create new ones. For example: Rindfleischetikettierungsueberwachungsaufgabenuebertragungsgesetz — literally “bovine-flesh-labeling-over-watching-on-give-over-carrying-out-law” describes a “law delegating beef label monitoring.”

Pleonasm, or How to Fake It

PLEONASM (/ˈplənæzəm/, from Greek πλεονασμός pleonasmos from πλέον pleon “more, too much”) is the use of more words or parts of words than is necessary for clear expression: examples are black darkness, or burning fire, or A malignant cancer is a pleonasm for a neoplasm. Such redundancy is, by traditional rhetorical criteria, a manifestation of tautology. – Wikipedia entry for pleonasm

I learned a new word today. If you know me, that’s no small thing. The word is pleonasm, proffered by Facebook friend Crys. She writes:

Why has it become so trendy for people to use double negatives? Ooh, it grinds my gears when people say/write things like “reply back”!!!!!
feeling annoyed. 

Then continues: Also on my naughty list are pleonasmsincluding, but not limited to: reduce down, raise up, safe haven, & burning fire.#WORDNERD

Crys, I know you read this blog regularly (and if you don’t, I’m pretending you do), as I see you name-checking some previous entries. In addition to your examples, we’ve called out frozen tundrasalsa sauce, please R.S.V.P., and La Brea Tar Pits. But I never knew these tautologies had a designation. So a big Lexicide thank you!

Now, let’s return to faking erudition by using redundant phrases – and annoying Crys!

See also: Redundant, Repetitious and Redundant

Of crashes and Oxford Dictionary entries

I returned from vacation (not vacay) to find my hard drive dead. As in bereft of life, run down the curtain and joined the choir invisible. As a result, I lost August’s Lexicide article, a smashing collection of portmanteau words in the business world, with suggestions from you readers.

Never fear. Today on the Oxford Dictionary blog are two appropriately relevant articles. “Business Jargon in the Mainstream” leads with a word I had not included in my piece: solopreneur. Since most entrepreneurs are one-person shows, I fail to see why this word is necessary. But that’s okay! I fail to see why most portmanteau creations are necessary. A threepeat is still just a repeated action and all marketing should be smart, whether it’s smarketing or not!

Also featured on Oxford’s blog is an update on new wordsHangry is cute and conveys a unique sensibility, but manspreading reminds me too much of meggingsmurse, and mandals, words I have lamented before. Of course, manspreading defines an action not defined elsewhere and, unlike the other words, doesn’t try to differentiate something that is genderless as masculine.

So stay tuned. I will reconstruct my article and return in force.

– Otto E. Mezzo