Combineability & Syllable Saving
I’ve been wondering lately how to measure combineability of words. When I was talking about the word combination website I’m building, Wocky Words, my friend asked me a question I hadn’t considered in quite awhile. I was rambling about the rating features of the site, where you can use a 5-star scale to rate submitted portmanteaux. Anyway, he asked me about how the words themselves are rated, and he reminded me that the 1-5 scale will be useful for measuring opinions of the portmanteau, but the portmanteaux will also have characteristics of its own. I’ll elaborate, but I can’t promise it will be extremely clear.
The first portmanteaux rating we talked about was Syllables Saved. Consider Brunch, a 1-syllable portmanteau which combines a 1-syllable wordponent with a 2-syllable wordponent. For Brunch, the Syllables Saved would be 2. Or is it? I might have to say “Breakfast and Lunch” or “Breakfast slash Lunch” if I wanted to decribe this meal (in an awful, awful portmanteau-free world), so if you include the filler word, the Syllables Saved could be 3. Perhaps it’s best to keep it simple and just compare the portmanteau to the sum of its wordponents, and here’s why: I just started thinking how many syllables are in “A meal with some breakfast food and some lunch food” (11) and how it may only be fair to compare Brunch to that entire definition, if that’s how I would describe the same situation. Clearly I’ve overthought this.
One of the comments on my last post touched on this – sometimes a portmanteau barely has any Syllables Saved, such as Grailocation, Stealeverage (Steal + Leverage), Snowindy (Snowy + Windy). In looking through my list for some examples, it took quite awhile to find Stealeverage and Snowindy, which I like to think indicates my portmanteaux have a high syllable savings factor. In fact, snowindy doesn’t technically fit that structure, because the ‘y’ in Snowy is actually a saved syllable. Maybe if people just slurred their speech a ton it would make portmanteaux irrelevant.
There are plenty of other portmanteau characteristics to talk about, but it’s late so I’ll save those for another time. Except for this one – combineability sounds like it refers more to the wordponents than to the portmanteau. From a portmanteau perspective, it could be defined as “how easily this word fits into other words.” I’ll leave the details for another post.
While saving syllables is always nice, and is the foundation for word combining, my favorite portmanteaux are those that can pair syllable savings with comprehendability (spellchecker disagrees with this word, so I’ll declare it a portmanteau of comprehend and ability).