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Is there a term for words that have been altered in this way?

For example, when speaking about a dignitary that is a dog, using "dognitary"

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I'd just call it a pun. Alternatively, take a leaf out of Johnson's book and call it the lowest form of humor –  FumbleFingers Dec 20 '13 at 19:46
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That would be something of a trompe-l’oreille, n’nest-ce pas? :) –  tchrist Dec 20 '13 at 20:01
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3 Answers 3

It is a portmanteau, a word formed by merging two other words. Smog (smoke + fog) is a well-recognized example of portmanteau.

That is, if dognitary itself were a recognized word listed in the dictionary, it would be portmanteau.

But, since dognitary is not in the dictionary yet (but it should be, since everyone knows what a dognitary is), it is a sniglet instead. This term was coined by comedian Rich Hall in the 1980's.

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Does a portmanteau need to appear in the dictionary to be a portmanteau, though? I would argue that 'Bennifer', while appearing (one hopes) in no dictionary, is still a portmanteau. –  Pat J Dec 20 '13 at 21:46
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I would call that a form of "mash-up", as defined by oxforddictionaries.com:

noun, informal

a mixture or fusion of disparate elements

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Downvoter, no feedback? –  Kristina Lopez Dec 20 '13 at 23:04
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I'll hazard a guess with wordplay, or more specifically, pun.

I'll accept that "pun" usually requires a play to be made on two words that sound similar to each other. Whether the similarity is sufficient to warrant the definition pun in the example you give is open to challenge.

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I would agree that they fall under wordplay, but that is a fairly broad term and I was looking for something more specific. –  davis_m Dec 20 '13 at 19:41
    
yeah -- okay... I'm inclined to suggest a pun then, but only insofar as as the word with the substituted letter sounds similar to the original. I do agree that this might be stretching it though. –  Brad Dec 20 '13 at 20:00
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